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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Little Men focuses on the budding friendship between two teenage boys -- and how circumstance beyond their control may threaten their connection. This subtle drama with a strong undercurrent of compassion also shows how adults can sometimes find themselves forced into difficult situations that might not have an easy resolution. Although there's little in the way of iffy content -- there's hardly any sex or swearing and only moderate drinking (though one character does smoke cigarettes often) -- the mature themes make more suitable for teens and up.
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What's the story?
When Jake's (Theo Taplitz) family moves into his recently deceased grandfather's house, he's befriended by Tony (Michael Barbieri), whose mom runs the dress shop downstairs and was a longtime tenant of his grandfather's. The boys hit it off, but their friendship is tested in LITTLE MEN when Jake's dad (Greg Kinnear) becomes involved in a dispute with Tony's mom over real estate matters.
Is it any good?
This film operates on a hushed scale, which, for the most part, works effectively. But that ultimately doesn't lead to making a lasting impression; while the forces that rock both Jake and Tony's families -- death, displacement, financial disputes -- loom large, Little Men holds them at arm's length for too long to climb toward an effective ending. What Little Men does well is show the progression of tween and teen friendship -- the push-pull, the slow build of trust, the discomfiting approach of adolescence and the larger problems of the outside world.
The film also does a fairly astute job of showing how adult concerns can impact childhood innocence, how grown-ups' worries begin to weigh on their children. But what of the "big men" and "big women"? They aren't particularly well-formed in this interesting but flawed drama. They're quick sketches rather than the detailed portraits that both Taplitz and Barbieri -- equal standouts in the movie -- are able to render.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Tony and Jake's friendship in Little Men. What draws them together, and what comes between them? Could things have ended up differently?
What about Brian and Leonor? Could they have resolved their dispute in a different way? Do you think Brian made the right decision? Did he have any good options?
How does real estate and, to some extent, gentrification, figure into the plot? How does it affect the characters' lives?
- In theaters: August 5, 2016
- On DVD or streaming: December 13, 2016
- Cast: Greg Kinnear, Jennifer Ehle, Alfred Molina
- Director: Ira Sachs
- Studio: Magnolia Pictures
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Friendship
- Character Strengths: Compassion
- Run time: 85 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: thematic elements, smoking and some language
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