Written by Nobuhiro Hosoki
After making an impressive debut with "In the Bedroom," which earned several Academy nominations,Todd Field returns with this much-anticipated follow-up about a middle-class American suburban family. Here is a film that makes an observation of a flawed and complex mind, then slowly uncovers a hidden secret beneath the facade of suffocating daily life. Belying the film's title, it's the parents who are engaged in the immature behavior.
Each day seems a recycling of the past at a suburban playground, particularly for Sarah (Kate Winslet), who feels trapped in marriage and abandons her almost-Ph.D. in English lit to be a stay-at-home mom--in a sense, a death sentence. The social summer scene at the playground is dominated by vicious and catty local moms for whom the highlight of the day is the arrival of Prom King, a golden-haired hunk named Brad (Patrick Wilson) who is stuck in an emasculating marriage with Kathy (Jennifer Connelly). Even after having failed the bar exam twice, he is already unenthusiastically taking it again.
At the first encountert with this underachieving twosome, sparks fly through the air when a local mom dares Sarah to get Brad's phone number for a $5 bet. The two go overboard in kissing each other and make Sarah feel totally ostracized. But this kiss is just a prelude to revealing the burning desire that later leads to a heated affair. In the meantime, the relative tranquility of the community is completely lost with the release from prison of sex-offender Ronnie (Jackie Earle Haley, who played a corky kid from the Bad News Bears). The local parents are flabbergasted at this insensitive decision. Ronnie's release is unacceptable to Larry (Noah Emmerich), an ex-cop and one-man vigilante committee, who takes the matter so personally that he harasses Ronnie and his mother at every chance he gets.
But director Todd Field slowly embraces this perverted Ronnie as a scapegoat. He uses Kubrickian narration throughout the film to allow us to enter each character's point of view, though sometimes rather excessively. Still, his heart is in the right place in this film based on a novel by Tom Perotta, author of the familiar work "Election." Here, Field takes a schematic and aggressive approach, revealing a meticulously crafted structure that is effectively worked into a film that is part drama and part satire.
The story is summed up in a poignant book-reading session in which Sarah defines Madame Bovary as a freethinker who refuses to accept a life of unhappiness. Here, sex isn't a betrayal, it's evidence of intimacy with freedom.
Directed by Todd Field
Written by Mr. Field and Tom Perrotta
Based on the novel by Mr. Perrotta
Director of photography: Antonio Calvache
Edited by Leo Trombetta
Music by Thomas Newma
Production designer: David Gropman
Produced by Albert Berger, Ron Yerxa and Mr. Field
Released by New Line Cinema.
Running time: 137 minutes.
Cast: Kate Winslet (Sarah Pierce)
Patrick Wilson (Brad Adamson)
Jennifer Connelly (Kathy Adamson)
Gregg Edelman (Richard Pierce)
Noah Emmerich (Larry Hedges)
Jackie Earle Haley (Ronald James McGorvey)
Phyllis Somerville (May McGorvey)
Ty Simpkins (Aaron Adamson)
, and Sadie Goldstein (Lucy Pierce).