Little Men, B
Rated PG-13, 85 minutes
The familiar but well-acted, affecting new indie drama "Little Men" speaks to the friendships we have as kids, and how our parents can shape them. "Little Men" is so aptly named because of the adult situations two adolescents are thrust into. When 13-year-old Jake's (Theo Taplitz) grandfather dies, his family moves into his father's old Brooklyn home. There, Jake befriends the charismatic Tony (Michael Barbieri), whose single mother Leonor (Paulina Garcia) runs the shop downstairs. Jake's parents Brian (Greg Kinnear) and Kathy (Jennifer Ehle) -- a struggling actor and a psychotherapist -- ask Leonor to sign a new, steeper lease on her store. For Leonor, the proposed new rent is untenable, and a feud ignites between the adults, impacting the boys friendship. Written and directed by Ira Sachs, who helmed the excellent "Love is Strange," "Little Men" is a sturdy, satisfactory drama that is most memorable for the two breakout turns from the two newcomers portraying the leads. Taplitz, as the shy, bookworm Jake, and Barbieri, as the gregarious, very exroverted Tony, are both superb, and it's a study in contrasts and how even in friendships, we are often attracted to polar opposites. But even more, it shows how those friendships compliment each other: Jake helps Tony channel his more sensitive side, while Tony helps Jake stand up for himself. We've seen it in movies many times - but Sachs adds some fun, even touching moments to keep the narrative flowing through its more predictable feuding parents narrative (a highlight: Tony and Jake going to an acting class). Speaking of which, as the feuding parents, both Kinnear and Chilean actress Garcia are also very good, giving some texture to the boys friendship and why they act the way they do. "Little Men" ends often as friendships do, in a very bittersweet way, and Sachs seems to end it with more to say, and you get the feeling that these boys might run into each other as adults. We hope they'd continue to be friends then, too.