In New York City, 10-year-old Gabe (Josh Hutcherson) forms a friendship with Rosemary (Charlie Ray) a girl his own age who attends his karate class. At first just sparring partners, the two become gradually closer over a few summer weeks, forcing Gabe to wrestle with the nature of his feelings for her.
Review by Jake Wilson:
The title "Little Manhattan" vaguely suggests a gangster movie, but this romantic comedy for children offers the cleanest cinematic portrayal of New York City since The Royal Tenenbaums, or perhaps James L. Brooks' As Good As It Gets. The streets lined with brownstone apartment buildings are safe and spacious, and Central Park in summer is a green, magical haven: looking across the lake, Gabe and Rosemary imagine one of the skyscrapers folding itself into a pirate ship and flying away.
In such a setting, it's the occasional touches of modern vulgarity that seem out of place: Gabe imagines his divorcing parents as candidates for The Jerry Springer Show, even if his Dad still reads The New Yorker. Young fogey Wes Anderson might have been an influence on director Mark Levin's widescreen framing, though Levin's technique is much more casual, almost amateurish - he tends to film the actors frontally from a distance in disconnected shots, like sketchy illustrations to the story Gabe narrates in non-stop voiceover.
Far from Anderson's arty ironies, Little Manhattan has equally little in common with any mainstream Hollywood trend - the freshness is authentic even when the whimsy grows hard to bear. The two leads are precocious in a way more typical of child actors than actual children: Gabe is a gruff, stocky kid whose attempts at manliness are played for laughs, while Charlie Ray as his eleven-year-old "girlfriend" already has a teenager's self-awareness, her raised eyebrows and sidelong glances placing every second line in quotes.
Yet despite or perhaps because of its contrivances the film has a certain emotional realism, following the hopes and disappointments of "first love" in unflinching detail. It might be a bit much for your average ten-year-old, given that Gabe's dilemmas are all the more excruciating for their innocence: having confessed his fascination with Rosemary early on, he spends at least half an hour of screen time wondering whether he should kiss her.
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LITTLE MANHATTAN (G)
CAST: Josh Hutcherson, Charlie Ray, Bradley Whitford, Cynthia Nixon
PRODUCER: Arnon Milchan, Gavin Polone
DIRECTOR: Mark Levin
SCRIPT: Jennifer Flackett
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Tim Orr
EDITOR: Alan Edward Bell
MUSIC: Chad Fisher
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Stuart Wurtzel
RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: 20th Century Fox
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: March 16, 2006
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
VIDEO RELEASE: August 10, 2006
RIVERSIDE SCREEN PREMIERES
A program of premiere screenings of new movies prior to their commercial release
on 6 consecutive Tuesdays, starts February 17, 2015 at Riverside Theatre,
Curated & presented by Andrew L. Urban, discussion to
follow with special guests. Briefing notes provided.