Author Louisa May Alcott made literary history with a very memorable novel way back in 1888 entitled Little Women. She naturally followed it up with the sequel Little Men 3 years later. The new Greg Kinnear film Little Men bears absolutely no resemblance to the Alcott classic, and really isn’t a Greg Kinnear film at all.
Greg Kinnear describes it as a film about the conflicts of friendship, when the kids in the film are actually more mature and thoughtful than the adults. It is a very contemporary film discussing classism, gentrification, and the hardships of of being a teenage kid in the big city.
Set in New York, director Ira Sachs (Love is Strange) again touches on the subtleties of big city 21st Century dilemmas. Greg Kinnear’s father owns a building that is both an apartment he resides in himself, and a business down below for a longtime female tenant (a dressmaker), who has become like a daughter to him, even closer to him than his own son.
When Kinnear’s father dies, he leaves the building to Kinnear’s character, and his sister, who immediately sees $ signs. Kinnear has a very talented, yet somewhat withdrawn 13-year-old-son (Jake), played sensitively, and brilliantly by a young actor from Southern California named Theo Taplitz.
Jake quickly bonds with the dressmaker’s son Tony, played with lots of energy by young Michael Barbieri. The scene with Tony in acting class screaming back and forth with his teacher, may be the best scene in the film. Kinnear says the kids stole the movie, and they did. Remember their names, as both of these kids will be heard from again. Michael Barbieri is already working on the next Spiderman film. Alfred Molina also has a small cameo in Little Men.
Jake is a would be artist, and Tony wants to be an actor, like Kinnear’s character, who has no time to mentor his son’s friend, as is very busily trying to please his sister by quadrupling the rent of Tony’s mother.
The intricacies of all the characters in the film are portrayed so honestly, Little Men may be one of the most moving films of 2016. Pauline Garcia does a commanding job playing Tony’s mother, who is sure she is entitled to cheap rent forever, as she and her business have been a part of the neighborhood for decades. You want to root for her because Kinnear’s character is supported almost entirely by his wife’s successful career as a therapist, but somehow you can’t support her entirely, as she is also ruining her son’s friendship in the rent battle.
When both boys figure out what is going on with their parents’ rent battle, they both ignore their parents by not speaking to them. All of the characters are dealing with tremendous change in their lives, the kids just handle it better. Kinnear’s character actually grows up also, but sadly, it is after all the damage is done. Kinnear is a master at subtlety. This is what makes him such a compelling actor.
I have seen this film twice now, and I picked up much more the second time around. The first time I saw it, the ending was sad to me. The second time, was in the presence of Greg Kinnear, director Ira Sachs, and his son in the movie, Theo Taplitz. Upon hearing all of their takes on the film, I felt better about it.
My conclusion: Little Men is a very good film, and is in select theaters now.