Sunday, August 2, 2009

That's Me Trying: The Movie Little Children and a Revelation

I saw the movie Little Children early Saturday morning. For some reason, I was awake at 5:30 a.m. when it came on and I got caught up in it.

Let me preface the rest of this post by letting you know there may be spoilers in here, so if you plan to see the film, you may want to stop here.

Scott had seen it before and liked it. I wasn't sure I wanted to see it. With the primary focus of the film being on a stay-at-home mom (Kate Winslet) who is dissatisfied with her life, I thought the film might hit a little close to home. Making it even creepier? The fact that my friend Jean has told me that I remind her of Kate Winslet.

The movie was hard to watch for a variety of reasons, but primarily because I did see bits of myself in Winslet's character, Sarah.

Sarah is a stay at home mom and kind of a failure. She has her Master's in English Lit but never finished her Ph.D. She's in kind of a loveless, passionless marriage. She has a little girl, but she's so absorbed in her own drama, her own ennui, that she can't take joy in the wonders of the world, the profound and beautiful moments of her own life that are right before her.

When the movie opens, Sarah is at the park with her daughter on a playdate with three other moms from the neighborhood. They're all very WASP-y and Stepfordy. I do kind of think the director went a little far with it. There's a blonde, a brunette, and a redhead, one dressed in pink, one in yellow, and one in pale blue. And they're mean and judgmental and you know they all talk about each other behind one another's backs.

They help Sarah out begrudgingly and with lots of snide little comments about how she should make a list for herself when she realizes she has forgotten her daughter's snack at the playground. And naturally the child is melting down and humiliating her mother because she feels neglected and she wants her snack.

I related to the mousy Sarah so much in that scene. Her disheveled appearance is a stark contrast next to the ironed and button-downed, if not stylish women who surround her and that combined with her scatter-brained inability to create a successful park outing for her child reminded me of myself in a couple of ways.

I mean, I'm not always like that. But I have had my moments. I just went on a playdate with my not-yet-potty-trained two-year old to a friend's house and forgot diapers. Fortunately, when he needed a change I was only four doors down and could walk home for a diaper while my friend watched Beckett. And when I'm around the well-groomed beauties in my neighborhood, I always feel a and disheveled? Even though I know I'm not and I actually try to look good most of the time unlike Sarah who is of the pretentious "I'm too intelligent for make-up and a hairstyle" ilk. I live in a neighborhood with an unusual amount of beautiful and well put-together women. But I digress.

Thankfully, that level of screwiness is about where my similarities end with Sarah. Sort of.

Sarah ends up having an affair with Brad, a stay-at-home dad she meets at the park. All the stay-at-home moms in Sarah's cohort have their collective eye on him, but Sarah somehow gets his attention and they begin an affair that ultimately culminates in their plan to run away together.

There's a lot of other things that happen in the movie and I won't bore you with them. I will get to my point here though.

The biggest way in which Sarah fucks up and is fucked up is that she can't get out of her head. All she can do is stew in her own sense of tedium and neglect until she meets Brad and then, almost instantly, the two of them get swept up into each other's lives, scheduling daily playdates for their two small children just so they can see each other. This gives her a break from the monotony of her life, but it does not get her out of her own head, nor does it make her in any way a better or happier person.

The thing is, I know what it's like to think that you're going to get married and have kids and have this perfect little life and then realize that you've not only put any other dreams you had on hold, you've up and abandoned them completely.

Although, I think in Sarah's case, having a child was a convenient excuse not to finish her dissertation and thereby avoid "real world" responsibilities. Except, guess what? Having and raising a child is very much of the real world and requires a completely different set of skills than teaching English Lit.

The thing that pained me most about this movie was how little Sarah was capable of connecting with her daughter. She simply could not get out of her own way to be able to engage with the child on any level short of taking care of her basic necessities. At one point, she tries to pay a neighbor who has been caring for the little girl while Sarah is out conducting her illicit affair with Brad, and tells her neighbor it's "for your trouble," ignoring all the sweet, generous comments the neighbor makes about what a delightful little girl Sarah has.

I know there have been times when I am guilty of those same crimes. There have been times when my worries about life, the stresses and anxieties of the world, my own sense of being lost or having no sense of purpose or wondering what my purpose is keep me locked inside my head, unable to do more than make sure everyone is clean, safe, and well-fed. But, I am very much aware of this fact and am fighting daily to make sure that I am present and engaged as fully as I can be in life, thankful now for every moment.

And that is where Sarah and I differ. Sarah seems to have no sense of being disengaged. Not really. She seems to believe that the "life" she has created with Brad, with both their children lurking around the fringes as a convenient excuse for their relationship, is real and she takes great effort to sustain it, yet she can't be bothered to stop staring at her reflection in the mirror (almost literal navel gazing), long enough to greet her daughter whom she has not seen in 24 hours.

There's a lot not to like about this movie with it's unintentional humor, annoying voice-over, some bad acting, and really, really annoying characters. Still, I'm glad I saw it; glad I saw myself in it a bit. It made me realize that while I may be imperfect, at least I'm here. And at least I'm trying.


Anonymous said...

You write so well!!! Im learning a lot from this post. :)

Thanks for dropping by my blog. Btw, how did you find it?

God bless!

Cranky Mommy said...

I haven't seen the movie because the book was so hard to read. Emotionally I mean. Sarah was a very hard character to have as a protagonist.

ViolinMama said...

Good for you!! I loved your last line...and you try, and you live well.

DogwoodGirl said...

Great post. I actually loved the book. Much better than the movie, IMO.

Dawn said...

Aren't they always?