Two 13-year-old boys become pawns in a much larger family scenario involving homes, livelihood and money in Little Men, a film about gentrification of neighborhoods and human spirits.
Co-written and directed by Ira Sachs, the movie quickly sets up a seemingly insoluble issue.
Through his father’s death, Manhattan resident Brian Jardine (Greg Kinnear) has inherited the deceased’s house in an up-and-coming section of Brooklyn. Brian is a veteran thespian but not a household name; it’s his wife Kathy, a therapist, who’s the breadwinner. The Jardines, along with their soft-spoken, artistic and introverted middle-school son Jake (Theo Taplitz), move into their new apartment.
This prized piece of real estate also contains commercial rental property, whose occupant is financially struggling seamstress Leonor (Paulina Garcia), the proprietor of a tailoring-and-dress business. Her loud, likeable and effusive son Tony (Michael Barbieri) is Jake’s age, and the two boys, despite their differences in financial status, become sibling-like friends.
That’s more than can be said for the two sets of parents.
Acutely aware of the neighborhood’s now upward mobility, the Jardines want to be fair but also bring Leonor’s rent up to market value. Leonor resists, frequently stooping to bouts of self-importance and arrogance, putting her faith in the disclosure that Jake’s late father loved her presence there and would not have condoned her being presented with a now unaffordable rent. Her guilt-tripping doesn’t succeed. Also pushing the monthly rent increase is Jake’s fierce sister (Talia Balsam), who wants her share of the bounty.
And in the middle, of course, are the boys, who intially see such adult-generated life battles as fixable, simply through their own good will to make it happen.
Sachs notably plays with the Venusian archetype here. Venus rules the arts: Brian is a thespian, Jake is a budding artist, and Tony a ham who wants to study acting. She rules the Feminine: Leonor clothes the female form. She rules balance: Kathy is a therapist. But she also rules money: the Jardines want what’s appropriate, while Leonor believes she’s being price-gouged.
In Little Men, everyone initially embraces the Venusian-Libran scales of justice. However, because money changes everything, civility winds up being solely in the eyes of the teen beholders who can do little more than observe and, in their own way, become recipients of a money-talks, this-is-how-the-real-world-works inheritance of their own.
Archetype: Money. Home. Siblings.
Astrology Archetype: ♀ (Venus)