Snap Judgment: Movies

Little Children

Directed by Todd Field

Field's haunting follow-up to "In the Bedroom" takes us to a leafy Massachusetts suburb where an unhappy housewife (Kate Winslet) drifts into an affair with a hapless stay-at-home dad (Patrick Wilson), while their clucking neighbors panic about the ex-con pederast (Jackie Earle Haley) living with his mom down the street. The Madame Bovary-in-suburbia motif may sound familiar, yet the unusual mix of satire and melodrama feels fresh. Not everything works (beware the football scenes), but this adaptation of Tom Perrotta's novel is hard to shake off. Wilson's overgrown adolescent, Winslet's bored, discontented wife and Haley's creepy, self-loathing sex offender are complex, deeply flawed characters-- they're the "little children." Field artfully keeps our feelings about them in a constant state of flux.