Little Manhattan (2005)
Dir: Mark Levin
Darn that Josh Hutcherson!
I wanted to watch something a little lighter as a change from all the dramas I’ve been watching, so this evening I saw this.
‘Little Manhattan’ is a romantic film set in New York with a little twist, that the couple are just 11 years-old. Gabe is a boy who hasn’t really noticed girls up to this point, but when he’s paired with the 3rd prettiest girl from school, Rosemary, in his new karate class, the two start sparring together and end up having a ‘little’ romance. At the same time, Gabe’s parents (Bradley Whitford and Cynthia Nixon) are doing the opposite, they are fighting and falling out of love, in the process of a lengthy divorce and still living in the same apartment.
Gabe narrates the story with a sense of hindsight, but it’s not a ‘How I Met Your Mother’ style, where he’s telling the story as an adult looking back on his first love as a child, it’s a young Gabe telling it as recent history, yet with most of the mature reflections that you would expect from an older person. This somehow works with the story though, as many parts of their romance mirror an adult relationship, with him waiting in a dress shop while she tries on dresses, and they even go to view an apartment together (don’t worry, it makes sense in the film). However, there are still childlike aspects as well, with a few sequences that emphasise child-like imagination, such as projectile vomiting within the first two minutes when explaining what little boys believe about what will happen if they kiss a girl. All of this is really to be expected when you consider the writer and director Mark Levin, who was one of the writers on television series ‘The Wonder Years’, which featured quite similar devices, though the narration in that case was by an older version of the character.
Now, my annoyance with Josh Hutcherson… How can this boy be a romantic lead in films from such a young age? It’s infuriating, in the last couple of years he’s been paired with both Jennifer Lawrence, and Hayden Panettiere. To be fair, he’s not a bad actor, I liked him in ‘The Hunger Games’, and I liked him in this. I think it’s just simply jealousy that at the age of 20 he’s already acted out things that I could only dream of, with both of my favourite actresses (based upon mainly aesthetic reasoning) Jennifer Lawrence and Hayden Panettiere… but I suppose I can’t criticise him for that.
It’s a really refreshing take on the romantic film, and probably could appeal to a large demographic with the linked pairings of the kids and parents offering views of relationships that are very different, yet viewers could relate to one or both of them.