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Little Children = liked it, but related to it less than i thought i should

I mean, the general tropes sound familiar enough: woman leaves promising career as an academic (in English, no less) to become a young, suburban mother; gets restless; acts on her restlessness; realizes its all folly and vanity and recommits to the life she has chosen.

And this is not to say I wasn’t touched and moved by the film, but as the credits rolled, I realized what was wrong. Ah, yes, I said to Lee, this was written by a man.

This led to a few glaring problems with the interpretation of repressed womanhood in search of salvation:
1) The way she talked about Madame Bovary was so dumb. I don’t think a former PhD student, even a woman in the throes of a torrid affair would speak that predictably about a text. And the line, “my professors would kill me for saying this…” sort of admits that.
2) Rather than remaining the strong, sardonic woman she is set up to be in the opening scene of the film (pretending to be an anthropoligist among the other housewives at the park hit especially close to home), Sarah (Kate Winslet) too quickly becomes a sniveling, whiny, petty little girly-girl. Again, yes, she has to be affected by her choice to have an affair, yes, there should be some transformation, and I’m not even arguing with the kind that is enacted, only with the degree. It’s too much, too fast.

Meanwhile, the guy is completely two-dimensional, the “Prom King”, which is sort of a nice choice to show that he’s only there to serve Sarah’s fantasy. Yes, he has his own little predictable sub-plot about wanting to regain his glory days as a, well, “Prom King”, but his issues are far less complicated than Sarah’s. His relationship with his son seems strong, while Sarah has completely alienated herself from her child.

In fact, that might have been the most alienating thing for me about the film. I couldn’t relate to a mother who, notwithstanding how repressed or trapped she felt, couldn’t (or wouldn’t) relate to her own child. I assumed from the introductory scene that the girl must have been autistic; it was the only explanation I could think of why Sarah would refer to her as “unknowable”. But no, she was a sweet little girl, with as fiesty a personality as her mother. Sarah’s inability to connect to her was, for me, the most tragic part of the film.

Oh, plus there’s a really creepy sub-plot with a pedophile.

All in all, even with, maybe because of, it’s flaws, this film gets a big ol’ thumbs up from AF.

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