Let’s talk about Greg Kinnear.
Self proclaimed king of the indie film (well okay maybe not self proclaimed but….don’t you think?)
After his performance in Little Miss Sunshine, I’ve been a low-key Kinnear fan for quite a few years now. Something about him just seems to get that raw but aloof indie aesthetic – and to his credit, he plays to those strengths rather than going where the money goes. And any argument that he sticks to one style of film because he’s not versatile is quickly voided by spending 90 minutes in front of Mystery Men.
However, diving dramatically into the indie scene is not without its risks – not every drama is going to cut through souls like Little Miss Sunshine.
Ira Sachs’ Little Men somewhat missed the mark. It aimed for warm and fuzzy, spliced with inherently human, and while he thankfully wasn’t trying to invent New Coke, the classic style fell flat and bubble free.
Whilst it is admittedly not always necessary for characters to be succinctly likeable in order to make a film great, and let’s face it, antiheroes are the new black; the pallet of characters in Little Men lack the visceral humanity that they sorely needed in order for the audience to find the empathy screenwriter’s Ira Sachs and Mauricio Zacharias seems to have been attempting to coax.
Kinnear’s underwhelming Brian Jardine takes a swing at emotional depth, with his own breakdown scene following the death of his father and upheaval if his family, but unlike Kinnear’s usual astute approach to raw grief, the performance seems to be more farcical, like watching a pantomime, something so basically human that has been skewed through a panel of frosted glass.
Theo Taplitz’s Jake plays an artsy, sulky teenager who’s trying to get into Juilliard to study art, and convinces his new bestie, Tony (Michael Barbieri) to try out alongside him. All the while, Tony’s mum is failing to pay the rent on her shop – which, in a nutshell, Jake’s Dad owns. There are tensions running high as the two new pals decide not to speak to their parents until they reach a peace – ultimately having little effect.
But if you’re hoping for some twists and turns to this story, you’d be out of luck. The film spends an enormous amount of time setting a scene, which ultimately never creates. Not that this is entirely ruinous; it smacks of a film that endeavours to pry into the private lives of seemingly ordinary suburban lives, to uncover earthly truths and show that behind the playful innocence of the two boys, all lives are more complicated than they at first appear. That times can be tough…and that teenagers can be irritating.
While Little Men is arguably not an unbearable way to spend two hours – an attempted study of the fleeting nature of friendships and relationships, of two souls connecting and losing touch – it ultimately has an overshadowing sense of pretentiousness, and none of the warmth and soul that characterises a great indie film.
Little Men is out in cinemas now