Little Men stars Greg Kinnear and Jennifer Ehle (far from her Pride and Prejudice days) and is co-written and directed by certified indie filmmaker Ira Sachs.
Greg Kinnear is a man who fluctuates from great to sub-par and he is definitely at his greatest when he works within the indie sector. I don’t like using the word “indie”, I feel as though it doesn’t convey anything about a film although it is basically being used as a descriptive term nowadays. “That film was so indie.” What does that mean? Yes, it means that it has been produced outside major studios and financed independently but how can all films, their different genres and themes included, that come under that description be filed under one “so-called” descriptive term.
It is obvious to anyone who has seen any previous Ira Sachs films that New York is his muse. The Big Apple is the central city to many filmmaker’s careers. Martin Scorsese and Woody Allen both use the city many times in their respective films. Ira Sachs has created the “New York Trilogy” which consists of Keep The Lights On, Love is Strange and Little Men; each one showcasing different parts of New York. It may be cliché to say but the city of New York is always an unofficial character in his films. It is more than just a backdrop. Sachs has been quoted saying he can “share [New York] from the inside.”
The film follows a friendship between two boys, Jake (Theo Taplitz) and Tony (Michael Barbieri) as Jake and his family move to a new Brooklyn apartment previously owned by Jake’s recently deceased grandfather; his dad’s, Brian’s (Greg Kinnear), father. With the new apartment comes a live-in tenant Leonor (Paulina Garcia), who is also Tony’s mother, and a financially unsuccessful dress-shop. Leonor’s lease is up and Brian has control over rental income for the apartment/shop now that his father has died. Unfortunately, Brian’s father had been previously giving Leonor a hefty discount to stay there, but with rising rent prices in Brooklyn, Brian can’t find a substantial way to keep this arrangement going.
The central characters are two young boys and their blossoming friendship and two parent’s who struggle with their diminishing one. With this, Little Men perfectly balances childhood nervousness and ambition with adult sensibility.
Kinnear and Ehle play a married couple; parents to one of the boys, Jake. They are one of the most realistic married couples I’ve seen on film who deal with money troubles, loss and guilt and all the normal emotions that come with a marriage. More time could have been spent on this refreshing couple. Kinnear’s acting is beautifully subdued and I feel he’s recalling some of his character’s traits from Little Miss Sunshine. He’s the perfect actor for this kind of role. His half awkward half charming demeanour is brilliant for complex characters like this.
It doesn’t have the most entirely satisfying ending because you’ve grown to like these characters, especially the relationship between Jake and Tony, through the film and by the end you’re disappointed it didn’t all work out. I suppose that’s a testament to the film. This film is realism in the 21st century.