Baseball Toaster Screen Jam
Haley Busts His Move
2007-02-05 20:00
by Jon Weisman

It was just one moment from an Academy Award-nominated performance, shot in a rather pedestrian living-room set, but it was a high-wire act for Jackie Earle Haley.

Small Spoilers Warning

Those who have seen Little Children will recall what was literally and figuratively a shattering scene for Haley's character, ex-convict Ronald James McGorvey. Those who haven't, just take my word for it – it was explosive.

Given the impact that the scene would have on the set dressing, Haley had little margin for error.

"What they had was two setups," Haley said during an interview he gave me a little while back for Variety. "I had basically two takes."

Haley acknowledged feeling the pressure as the cameras rolled.

"There were a couple of times I ran out and up to the camera, and for some reason, I wasn't feeling it, and I just stopped," he said.

Finally, he went through his no-holds-barred first take. It was a success, though not without a price.

"During the scene, I cut the ---- out of my hands," Haley said.

Nursing his wounds as they moved the cameras for the second run, Haley said he studied the footage from the first take.

"So I could bust everything up in the same order," he says. "Cause you're running around like a maniac. … I had to find the same emotional place and still be cognizant of that."

Between the first take and the second, Haley delievered everything Little Children director Todd Field needed. It was a critical moment for the success of the film, as well as for Haley earning his Oscar nom.

And perhaps most appropriately, the scene illustrated how Haley, finding new life in acting after his career lay dormant for more than a decade, could make the most out of two chances in Hollywood.

2007-02-05 21:42:58
1.   Bob Timmermann
I'm assuming the final scene with Haley was less realistic.

At least I hope so.

2007-02-06 07:26:57
2.   Benaiah
Warning Spoilers Throughout:

I finally got around to seeing Little Children and I really liked parts of it, but the ending just didn't do it for me. Haley's part was great, it was foreshadowed by two earlier comments, it wrapped up his story and it was connected with the larger movie, but the simultaneous epiphanies by the two lovers was convenient and cinematic. Sarah finally realizes that she loves her daughter (though honestly I wasn't frightened when she disappeared, I mean we know that Haley's character didn't take her) and Wilson establishes that he was a slack jawed idiot who just needed a good spanking. I guess the movie established that both character traits (Sarah uses her daughter as a ploy to meet Brad and Brad is like a baby watching shiny keys).

I liked parts of the movie. I love Kate Winslet, and Jennifer Connolly is an absolute knockout- maybe the best looking actress in Hollywood. There were individual scenes that really moved me, like Haley's scene in the pool, his date, the book club ("She's just a slut."), the catty conversations on the playground et al, but as a whole it just felt a little contrived. The narration really took me out of the story, the initial kiss was far-fetched and some of the characters were very minimally written (Where did Winslet's husband go after that hilarious underwear scene?). It was an enjoyable movie, but I didn't like it nearly as much as Children of Men, Pan's Labyrinth, Letters from Iowa Jima or even The Departed (Which I am rooting for as Best Picture).

2007-02-07 00:08:59
3.   overkill94
Spoiler alert again (mostly in response to Benaiah):

I thought the ending was a perfect fit for the movie. It was fairly obvious throughout the movie that Brad was "too good" for Sarah, which is why she was always so hesitant to believe he actually loved her. It's not that they had all that much chemistry, it was just that Sarah was so supportive and awestruck by Brad that he enjoyed the attention and the fact that she didn't remind him of his overbearing wife.

By the end, Brad is ready to run away because he likes how Sarah makes him feel, but still wants to try the thing he had wanted all along - to be accepted by the juvenile skateboarders and feel a different sort of excitement. When he realizes that he gets the same rush from cheating on his wife that he does from jumping a rail, he realizes that while he may not be happy with his current wife, running away with Sarah wouldn't solve his problems.

Sarah's revelation comes because she was wary about Brad the whole time, so when her daughter goes missing, she realizes that the only true love she has in life is for her daughter.

As for the other elements of the movie, I loved how the Haley character was handled, especially his own realization that he has a problem and the conflict within himself to try to do the right thing. The other moms were a good caricature, albeit somewhat overdone. Admittedly I haven't seen a lot of the heavy hitters for Oscars yet, Little Children was the one I enjoyed the most and hope it comes away with at least a couple statues.

2007-02-07 06:43:23
4.   Benaiah
3 - I could quibble with some of your notions (Brad isn't too good for her, she is just attempting to spice up her life, taking huge risks), but that is ultimately besides the point. It is cinematic and false (in a way that the movie tried to avoid thoughout) to have both leads spontaneously, separately and simultaneously decide to go home. There were smidgens of development towards this end (Sarah uses her child as a ploy, Brad is a child who is amused by games and skateboarding tricks), but the ending felt too neat.
2007-02-07 08:36:05
5.   Benaiah
Jon, has a little article about how the new nielson process gave a big boost to Scrubs and The Office (among other shows including Grey's and Ugly Betty). At Variety you must have more details on this. Is Scrubs now a mediocre ratings failure, with average demographics, or was the change insignificant? This seems like it might fuel the rumors of another season.
2007-02-07 10:09:39
6.   Benaiah
I just wasted an hour at work, maybe more on this:

It is a blow by blow recap and analysis of the Dundees and Casino Night episodes of the Office. I laughed out loud several times, but the end of course leaves you low. Casino Night is one of the best things I have ever seen on television and this is a great recap. If you like (love) "The Office" you should definitely check this out.

2007-02-07 10:14:57
7.   Jon Weisman
Why is it false for both people to decide at the moment of truth not to jump off the bridge? It wasn't as if they decided simulatenously at a random point in the middle of a cross-country road trip. They both instinctively looked before they leaped. It's almost like saying it was too convenient for Thelma and Louise to both decide to jump. (Obviously, Kate and Patrick Wilson weren't in a car together, but you get the idea.)

I thought the narration was about the only good example of voiceover in Hollywood - it was done so well.

And I was terrified when Kate's daughter went missing - not that I assumed Haley had done something, but just because it's terrifying.

The initial kiss wasn't far-fetched to me - it was a cry for help from two people very insecure in their marriages.

I did wonder about the disappearance of Kate's husband from the movie.

2007-02-07 11:50:15
8.   overkill94
Besides, the realizations didn't come simultaneously, Sarah's revelation only came after she realized Brad wasn't coming, at which point she realized how shallow her relationship really was and knew it wouldn't have worked anyway.

I think Sarah's husband was basically exiled to sleeping on the couch and they rarely spoke. It seemed there was nothing more to be said between the two so why add scenes with him in it just to make it more realistic?

2007-02-07 12:44:12
9.   Benaiah
7 - They didn't decide not to jump off the bridge, events conspired to make them realize the true nature of their relationship. Brad sits watching these skaters every night, but happens to be asked to skate on the night he is rushing to get to the park where Sarah happens to bump into the ominous pervert. Brad's absence certainly helped Sarah come to that conclusion, but it isn't like life, it is cinematic. There is no contemplation, there are two separate, simultaneous imposed epiphanies.

As someone who sees a lot of movies, I usually guess what is going to happen, what the twists are, this isn't to brag, just to point out that most movies are formulaic. Several times I guessed what would happen in Little Children and I was always wrong (I thought that Brad's wife would be the other woman at the book club and I thought that the reason Sarah's friend was so skittish when she got back from vacation was because she found the photo of Brad. By the way, why was she so skittish?). That's a good thing, instead of cliches and contrived movie situations, Little Children strives to reveal something. The end betrayes that, all of the pieces came together neatly, everyone realizes they were wrong and Sarah and Brad return home with no consequences. Unlike in life, neither character is hurt by the sudden end of the relationship, neither marriage ends (that we can see), no one is the wiser, even Jennifer Connolly (who is smoking hot, by the way) does nothing with the knowledge that Brad lied about Sarah.

8 - It is sloppy writing to lose a character midway through the movie. He vanishes because after that initial joke they couldn't figure out what to do with him. There are plenty of things that must have been said, and could have been said between them. She is sleeping with Brad in their house, she is hanging out with this guy all the time, what does her husband think about that? What happens with his internet hobby? The movie just forgets about him, until he has to reappear for the dinner (why did Jennifer Connolly spend so much time looking at Sarah's toenails? There is an earlier scene that shows her feet on Brad's chest, but how could JC know that?).

2007-02-07 13:14:15
10.   Jon Weisman
"The end betrayes that, all of the pieces came together neatly, everyone realizes they were wrong and Sarah and Brad return home with no consequences. Unlike in life, neither character is hurt by the sudden end of the relationship, neither marriage ends (that we can see), no one is the wiser, even Jennifer Connolly (who is smoking hot, by the way) does nothing with the knowledge that Brad lied about Sarah."

I don't see much evidence that their lives will be the same. I think clearly they will be affected. The thing about it is that's interesting is that (after the movie ends) they will have to move forward within their lives within their own realities, rather than by escape and denial. Sarah won't stay with her husband, for example - but she's going to have to build a new life for herself the honest way. And whatever Jennifer's immediate reaction was, I think you can assume it will affect the marriage longterm - involving such things perhaps as, maybe she'll understand that Brad simply wasn't meant to be the proverbial man of the house.

By the way, I'm not trying to change your mind about the movie, just reacting to it. You're articulating your criticisms well.

2007-02-07 13:26:26
11.   Benaiah
10 - I love to discuss things, so don't worry about changing my mind. I really did like Little Children, it was a very interesting, entertaining movie, but I just don't see it as a great movie.

Kate Winslet is the best though. I loved her episode of "Extras" where she talks about needing to play a nun in the Holocaust or a mentally handicapped person in order to win an Oscar. She won't win for this one either, but at least she is padding her bridesmaid totals for an eventual "body of work" win.

2007-02-07 13:27:33
12.   Benaiah
11 - Note, "don't worry about changing my mind" doesn't mean my mind can't be changed, just don't worry that I will be offended by you doing it.
2007-02-07 22:47:40
13.   overkill94
9 She was looking at Sarah's feet to see if she was playing footsie with Brad, which would be a sly way for them to show their affection in a discrete manner at a table.

The storybook ending would have been for Sarah and Brad to run away together because the audience sympathized with both of them and wanted them both to be happy. The way they did it made more artistic sense and left an open-ended conclusion as to how their lives would end up. Sarah will obviously leave her husband, but will she be so hurt by her relationship with Brad that she ends up a lonely single mother? Brad has it easy because he never actually causes a rift between he and his wife, so now he can choose his own path.

I found virtually no flaws with the movie. The characters were expertly drawn, the plot movement was fluid and unpredicatble, the dialogue was quite sharp, and I didn't feel that there were any cop-outs. Basically, no one was painted too extremely one way or another (aside from maybe Sarah's husband). Brad and Sarah are both sympathetic characters, but not to the point where I felt bad at how their destiny unfolded. Haley's character was extremely well-done in the way it acknowledged his problems, but gave him enough practicality that he can't be viewed as a stereotypical monster.

2007-02-08 06:55:01
14.   Benaiah
13 - I know that, she was staring at her painted blue toenails though.

Honestly, I wasn't expecting the storybook ending, but I was expecting some sort of mutual destruction. Haley is flipping out and has a knife, and they are heading to the playground. The movie seemed to be building toward something horrible, and then it just went bumps and bruises. The only metaphor of the ending that makes any sense to me, is that Sarah and Brad were little children and the received spankings for being bad and they learned their lesson.

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