Starring Josh Hutcherson, Bradley Whitford, Cynthia Nixon and
Screenplay by Jennifer Flackett
Directed by Mark Levin
IN SHORT: Best of the Year (so far). [Rated PG for mild thematic
elements, language and brief action. 84 minutes]
Cutting right to the chase: Little Manhattan is a story of
first love. We'll exempt teens and socially deprived (very) young adults
from the potential
audience for this BOTY flick and we'll yell at all the men to stay in
their seats. Little Manhattan is not a chick flick in anything
close to the traditional sense nor is it "romantic" to the
point that any man will curl up in his theater seat and swear to make
sit through the next Steven Seagal punchfest. For reasons that should
be apparent once you wade through what follows, the farther you are from
that first love, the better this film feels.
In his ever expanding world, ten and three quarters years old Gabe Burton
(Josh Hutcherson) is, for most of the time, a decidedly happy youngster.
He's decidedly happy because his parents, father (Bradley Whitford) and
mother (Cynthia Nixon), are separating. Thanks to the economics of life
in New York, they still share the same apartment and have, to some extent,
started the process of moving on. That means dating. Not fun and definitely
confusing for any kidlet. Because of some trouble with a local bully,
Gabe begins karate classes. In his class is one Rosemary Telesco (Charlie
Ray), who he last saw in kindergarten. Rosemary's parents are fabulously
wealthy, and equally busy and therefore invisible, TV writer/producers.
Rosemary's attendance at karate class is just another piece of her carefully
scheduled life. That's what some parents do in the Big City. They treat
their kids as equals. Run their lives by palm pilot or filofax or some
other schedule. Let the help look after the kids.
Gabe hasn't seen Rosemary for years. The parents vaguely remember her.
A friendship -- well, at karate school it really means a punch out --
begins. Before he knows it, Gabe is spending a lot of time with Rosemary.
At class. In the park. Razor scooting through the streets of the Upper
West Side of Manhattan. Gabe is the one who has the "big" problems
that he needs to confide. Rosemary is the one who comes up with potential
solutions. Nothing sexual about that at all. Nothing that we're going
to spill about the plot either for Little Manhattan is so well written
and so story driven that giving you more than the basics will spoil the
Well, OK, there is a First Kiss involved but that's as far as we'll go.
In the past we have planted for painful flicks that try to use kids to
analyze their parents' world. Little Manhattan doesn't go anywhere near
this route thanks to a script that is as grounded in real world perceptions
as you can get. How the kids try to solve problems not of their own making
is clever and entertaining; it will touch the hearts of anyone with a
couple of years of emotional luggage. It also shows New York in a beautiful
More to the point, hanging this story on the backs of two child actors
is about as dangerous as a production can get. Charlie Ray is a first
timer. Josh Hutcherson has enough TV and film roles in his credits that
he delivers the emotional swings of his character with all the skill
of any grown actor. While Whitford and Nixon are easily recognized from
their own work, this is the kidlet world we see. More to the point, Little
Manhattan is built on a script that unlocks all the similar memories
of any adult's first love. No violins. Nothing smarmy. Lots of emotional
peaks and valleys and across the board terrific performances.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky
able to set his own price to Little Manhattan, he would have paid .
Highly recommended. The perfect ten, by our system, means we'd see the film twice. We're
halfway through a week with close to ten screenings and we're just too
tired to do more
than get on the phone to call everyone we know to recommend the film.