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Laramie Movie Scope:
Little Men

Part of a story, feels unfinished

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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December 2, 2016 -- When I got to the end of this little movie about little men, I had a definite feeling, as told in that old Peggy Lee song “Is That all there is?”

This movie ends like a song that ends in mid-note. It feels more than a little unfinished. It is a movie about two boys on the edge of adulthood whose deep friendship is interrupted by their parents' financial dispute. The two boys run into the harsh economic realities of gentrification. So what? Nothing, that's what.

The main character, Jake (Theo Taplitz) is virtually friendless until his grandfather dies and his family moves into his grandfather's Brooklyn home, which has a dress shop downstairs run by Leonor Calvelli (Paulina Garcia). Jake and Leonor's son, Tony (Michael Barbieri) become fast friends. This is conveyed mainly through sequences of the boys playing together. There is no dialog in these scenes, which are overlaid with loud, romantic music.

Problems arise with Jake's financially strapped parents, Brian Jardine (Greg Kinnear) and wife Kathy (Jennifer Ehle) demand more rent money from Leonor, whose modest business cannot support the higher rent. The justification for the high rent is that “the neighborhood is changing” (becoming gentrified, that is). Both families prevent their sons from fraternizing with the “enemy” family. Sounds petty, and it is.

The two boys decide to punish their parents with even more pettiness, giving them the silent treatment. At least they are kids and don't know any better. Soon after this, the story comes to a sudden halt. There is a resolution to this story, but some important matters are left up in the air.

What is left is the rather unpleasant moral residue of the story, which is that people in different income brackets just can't mix. The point of it is that even a deep friendship can prove to be very fragile when circumstances don't support it. People are only as nice to other people as they can afford to be.

There is also a sexual undercurrent in the movie that is touched upon, but not explored. Jake could be homosexual, while his friend, Tony, is heterosexual. Whether or not this affects their friendship is left up in the air. This is just one of the issues that are avoided, rather than confronted, in this movie.

Jake's father, Brian, looks haggard and worn out in the movie. He is an aspiring actor whose career seems to be going nowhere. In one conversation, Leonor basically calls Brian a loser. Unsurprisingly, she fails to get on Brian's good side with this tactic. Leonor was a good friend of Brian's father, at least she said she was. She hopes to remain as a tenant in the building, for the same price, because of that friendship. Unsurprisingly, things change.

The acting in the movie is very strong, and the two young actors, Theo Taplitz and Michael Barbieri are quite engaging. Acting is not the problem here. It seldom is. The story is the problem. It takes aim at some serious issues, but doesn't have the guts to really address them. Instead, the story skittishly skates around the issues it raises, and quits before it gets ahead. This film rates a C.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2016 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)