Little Children

Adapting Tom Perrotta’s 2004 novel with the author, director Todd Field broods on sexual tensions among stay-at-home parents in leafy, socially stifling suburban Massachusetts. It’s the same faux-mature melodrama Field brought to In the Bedroom; now he expects us to consider Kate Winslet frumpy, even going so far as to suppress her natural wit and mischief. Hence, apparently, her character’s craving for Patrick Wilson’s non-threatening beefcake (as vacuously watchable as a young Paul Newman or Kevin Costner). They bond over life adrift with spouse aloof—Jennifer Connelly his, Gregg Edelman hers—and inevitably get it on. Field so totally should have called it In the Laundry Room. Not to say that prissy if slightly kinky small-town anomie doesn’t deserve, well, yet another satire, but why bother when the satire itself is so nauseatingly genteel? Blame Field (remember, Perrotta also wrote the knifelike Election), for facing the material too squarely. That said, beware of Jackie Earle Haley, who out Oscar-baits everybody with his absorbing portrayal of the neighborhood sex offender.