“LITTLE MEN” My rating: B (Opens Sept. 30 at the Tivoli)
85 minutes | MPAA rating: PG
Suffused with somber wisdom and and delicate emotions, Ira Sachs’ “Little Men” is a terrific movie about boyhood friendship.
It’s also about conflicts in the adult world that can destroy that innocent and easygoing intimacy.
Thirteen-year-old Jake (Theo Taplitz) is initially dismayed when his parents move from glamorous Manhattan to pedestrian Brooklyn and the building long owned by his recently deceased grandfather. Yeah, there’s more room in the rent-free second-floor apartment where Grandpa lived…but it’s Brooklyn.
He undergoes an attitude adjustment after meeting Tony (Michael Barbieri), whose mother Leonor (Paulina Garcia) operates a dress shop on the ground floor.
The kids complement each other nicely. Jake is quiet and thoughtful; Tony is brash and confidant (and very, very bright). Moreover, they share a love not only of video games but of the arts. Jake is a promising painter and Tony has set his goal on becoming an actor.
Over time they set in motion plans to get into an arts-themed high school.
The boys are so tuned in to each other’s emotions and intellects (there’s just the slightest suggestion that Jake might be gay, but the matter is left hanging) that they’re late in realizing the conflicts developing in the adult world around them.
Jake’s parents — his psychoanalyst mother Kathy (Jennifer Ehle) and struggling actor father Brian (Greg Kenner) — discover that Leonor has been paying Grandpa a fraction of what should be the going rent on her storefront shop in this rapidly gentrifying neighborhood.
Leonor maintains that she and the old man were very close (just how close is a matter for speculation) and that he wanted her to have the space more or less in perpetuity. Furthermore, she maintains she was more of a family to him than his flesh and blood across the East River.