At first glance, Ira Sachs’ Little Men would appear to be geared toward those who thought his previous film Love Is Strange didn’t spend nearly enough time on the travails of the straight teenage boy. Thankfully, it’s playing on a deeper level than that, and is a more satisfying film overall. Struggling actor Brian (Greg Kinnear) moves his wife, Kathy (Jennifer Ehle), and their introverted son, Jake (Theo Taplitz), into the Brooklyn apartment building owned by Brian’s recently deceased father. The ground-floor tenant is Leonor (Paulina García), the owner of a dressmaking shop and mother of outgoing, aspiring actor Tony (Michael Barbeieri). Tony immediately bonds with Jake — but less so with Brian and Leonor, since the former intends to triple the latter’s rent to help compensate for his own career failures. The closely observed Little Men is as much about gentrification as it is about small moments that don’t necessarily advance the story but shade in the characters — a medium shot of an exercise in Tony’s acting class takes up an unbroken minute and a half of screen time — with a major subtext about gender roles. And where the final scenes of Love is Strange changed that film’s emphasis, Little Men sticks its landing, implying something new about a major character without invalidating what came before. And that’s no small feat.
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