Sunday, October 30, 2016

Little Men (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

Little Men

"Little Men" is yet another stirring and percussive film from director Ira Sachs (Love Is Strange). The film is compressed and potent, having the power of a good short story.

13 year-old Jake (Theo Taplitz) has moved to Brooklyn from Manhattan. He is shy, awkward and feels a bit alien. Jake's ambitious drawings and paintings are his only island of security. By chance, he meets the glib and boastful Tony (Michael Barbieri) who recalls a bit of  Sal Mineo as a young boy. As both of the boys are creative, they quickly become friends. Tony's mother Leonor (Paulina Garcia) rents shop space from Jake's father Brian (Greg Kinnear).  She was also a confidant of Brian's father, who has recently passed on. Brian's father is never seen in the film. He is a symbol of a more sincere and honest past.

The two boys grow so close that they want to go to the same school, LaGuardia High. But, all is not harmonious. Under pressure from Brian's sister, Audrey (Talia Balsam) the father agrees to raise the rent on Leonor's dress shop, which in turn puts a strain on the boys' friendship.

The film is excellent in portraying the insecurity and need for bravado at early adolescence. There is one rave music episode in particular, highlighting the overconfident swagger of Tony that is as funny and real as anything by Woody Allen.

"Little Men" also points to the grim circumstance of money, of selfish (but not monstrous) urges and the unavoidable gentrification of a quaint Brooklyn. In a brilliant turn, the film makes Jake and Tony into star-cross'd friends in the manner of Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet.

One late scene showing Jake spotting the uninhibited Tony with a transfixed wanting  from across a museum floor proves the  piece de resistance.

Before puberty, childhood friendship is the ultimate drive.

Write Ian at

No comments: