Little Men (Ira Sachs, 2016)
There’s an important, timely, and socially significant film to be made out of the components of Ira Sachs’ new film Little Men. But the final product of his decidedly simple seventh feature, a film that primarily contends with the white guilt associated with urban gentrification, boarders on offensive. The film finds a New York City family who relocated to Brooklyn following the passing of the patriarch’s father. Brian (Greg Kinnear), a floundering actor, inherits the property in the blossoming neighborhood – an inheritance that includes a Chilean shopkeeper tenant named Leonor (Paulina Garcia). With the property’s value seeing a significant increase, Brian and Leonor come to clash, an issue that becomes increasingly complicated when their two sons, Jake (Theo Taplitz) and Tony (Michael Barbieri) becomes best of friends.
Sachs is at his best when focused on the two boys, whose friendship possesses heartfelt –perhaps biographical – warmth that is completely omitted from the film’s ridiculously obtuse tackling of gentrification. Something like Kenneth Lonergan’s Margaret or especially Frederick Wiseman’s In Jackson Heights tackles similar issues of urban gentrification and white guilt with much more sensitivity and insight. Little Men feels about ten years past its expiration date.