Movie Notes: Little Children, The Fountain

Little Children benefits from its novelistic origins — it’s cowritten by the author of the source book, and features intermittent arch narration to provide background that would normally be difficult to film. The portrait of several residents of an urban neighborhood surrounding a playground, involving infidelity and the threat of a sex ‘pervert’ (scarily played by Jackie Earle Haley), the film traces several plot threads that, just ten or fifteen minutes from the end, threaten to converge in potentially catastraphic ways. It’s a tribute to the non-Hollywood-esque protocols of the film that they do not resolve in any gratuitous tragedy, or formula happy ending, but a resolution that derives satisfactorily from the motives and circumstancies of the characters. Still, I’m not sure the portrait of the victimized sex offender, who ends up demonized anyway, is entirely fair.

I liked The Fountain better than I thought I would (after one of my reviewers dismissed the opportunity to cover it, on the basis of trailers, as new age hokum); it did make sense and have a story for most of its length. All about three eras of questors of immortality, with Hugh Jackman in the central roles; the parallels between eras were easy enough to follow, metaphorically or metafictionally if not literally. Still it does not add up to much, as far as I could tell; the bottom line, about that quest and the possible need for the acceptance of death, seemed merely vapid. Yet, nice acting, beautiful cinematography and effects, and a compelling score by Clint Mansell — minimalist, dark, compulsive; the sort of thing I like but wouldn’t assume most others would.

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