Scott and I watched the movie Little Children without knowing anything beyond what the rental said on the back of the box. From the opening moments of the movie it's clear the movie is a novel adaptation. A disembodied narrator is with us for most of the story. As the film opens we see Sarah, played by Kate Winslet with her three year old daughter and three other suburban mothers and their children in a playground setting. I assume it’s being narrated from Sarah’s point of view. Several minutes later, the point of view switches to Brad, a stay at home dad referred to by the three women who are regulars at the playground as “The Prom King”. I then assume the story is being told from the omniscient point of view, simply because the ethereal male narrator’s voice is so god-like and detached. I realize soon afterward that the narrator speaks only from the point of view of two of the many characters.
I can’t recall ever seeing a movie narrated so heavily throughout and I can't think of any narrated from multiple points of view. It took me slightly off guard initially, but it was very effective. When I read a novel told from multiple points of view, I tend to “hear” a different voice for each character.
The story was so interesting, the characters – and there were quite a few -- so well developed and the many major conflicts were so elegantly wrapped up that I was interested in finding out more about the author, Tom Perrotta and the book. I found out that in addition to writing Little Children, he wrote Election, which was also adapted to film in 1999. In all he’s written six novels, his newest, The Abstinence Teacher due to be published in October. He’s also written a number of short stories and essays.
I found an interview with Tom Perrotta that was done prior to the film adaptation of Little Children in Post Road Magazine – incidentally, the same literary magazine where P. Amy MacKinnon of The Writers Group is a fiction slush reader. In the
When the movie finished, I realized that for the last few years, no matter what the medium, whether it’s a novel, a movie, a short story or even a television show, I find myself dissecting stories -- the good ones -- and noticing technique in a great deal of detail. A couple of years ago, Scott and another painter were having a spirited discussion about a particular group of paintings in an art magazine. I was a little amused and thought that as an art lover, but not a painter I could derive more enjoyment from artwork than they could because they were incapable of not analyzing the technique and I didn’t know enough to do it. I went to the ballet several years ago and had a similar experience. I knew enough about ballet from a couple of humbling years as a beginning adult student to appreciate how incredibly difficult even the simplest things are, but not enough experience to notice small mistakes in particularly difficult moves. I overheard two young women behind me making a big deal about something that had happened right before my eyes during a lift that was apparently near-catastrophic, but the dancer recovered and only the most discerning eyes in the audience ever knew the difference. I was watching and I didn’t.
Does experiencing art of any kind with a critical eye add or detract from your enjoyment of it? Does the analysis take us out of the experience? How do you view art, literature, dance, music or other art forms when you have an intimate understanding of them? Once you've immersed yourself in an art form, can you ever give your inner critic the day off?