Rated R for being a spooky thriller. There's some pretty brutal violence done to women in this movie. Coupled with that, there is nudity in an autopsy sequence. It's not surprising with all this kind of stuff that we'd have some pretty intense language. A lot of people have been comparing this movie to Se7en. Se7en is more intense, but they both deserve the MPAA's R rating.
DIRECTOR: John Lee Hancock
It's official! It's the first 2021 film to hit the blog! It's usually about this time of year. I mean, I don't think I'd be rushing out to theaters to see The Little Things if Covid wasn't around. And I genuinely am rooting for the survival of movie theaters post-pandemic. But God bless HBO Max for making this a low-stress decision to make because I in-no-way regret watching this movie. Is it perfect? No. Is it a pretty solid film release in January, a time of year where studios bury their garbage? Yes. This is a perfectly fine movie that's new and I had a decent time with it...when I wasn't fighting exhaustion.
Yeah, I would recommend cutting fifteen minutes from this movie. But a lot of that comes from constantly being exhausted and wanting movies to be shorter. I may or may not have fallen asleep after my alarm this morning because I'm always tired. Maybe movies weren't built around parents of four, but having a dark film with a slow pace isn't exactly the thing to keep this demographic awake. We were planning on watching it in one sitting, but instead got super exhausted. But, Day Two was great. I was wide awake. I was folding laundry while watching and that's what I needed. I don't think you are allowed to fold laundry at the movie theaters. I know that you can now order food and booze from them, but bringing a big basket of laundry is a no-no? Thanks a lot, Obama.
But I'm going to mostly applaud the film. The Little Things, while kind of being a lame title that really tries justifying itself throughout the movie, does what I want a lot of psychological thrillers to do. While the reveal isn't that impressive, it does take a left while other movies take a right. BIG SPOILER: My wife, at one point, said, "What if he isn't the guy?" I mean, I'm pretty sure everyone thought it at one point. But vocalizing it goes a long way. The thing is, we always need closure. I imagine (and again, "imagine" really stresses how unqualified I am at saying this) that being in law enforcement is a lot about getting comfortable with never having closure. The Little Things is about two smart cops. One is kind of a Sherlock Holmes level genius who can view a crime scene from this detached place. The other is an up-and-comer. Cool. But both are obsessed with getting answers. But the movie ends with us not knowing who committed these murders. There is just the implication that Sparma, the most serial killer-y guy with the most serial killer-y name, probably didn't actually do it.
And that is what makes the movie interesting. Sparma, despite the fact that he probably didn't kill anyone, makes this amazing villain. I will go out of my way and point out that I loathe Jared Leto for his personality on set. I keep reading these reports about how he crosses way too many lines to get an authentic performance. Maybe he needs to be cast as an altruistic humanitarian just to undo some of the garbage that he did with his Joker from Suicide Squad. But he makes this truly compelling villain. See, I kind of covered some of this with The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog and The Lodger remake.
But there's a big difference between those two movies and The Little Things. With The Little Things, Sparma is actually a full on villain. While it is questionable whether or not he is the killer, much like the different endings of The Lodger, it doesn't matter. A lot of Sparma's evil comes from the element of chaos that he adds to the narrative. Yeah, I mean, I also saw the connection with The Little Things and Se7en. But Sparma is an extreme version of a real person. There are all these people out there who enjoy confessing to things that they didn't do. Sparma might be the most extreme version of that. Instead of simply being someone who has psychological issues, Sparma seems to enjoy two potentially disparate things. It really reads like he is someone who enjoys derailing the pursuit of justice. Now, I'm not exactly all "justice" or anything. But I do get that evil need to be kept in check. There is no nobility to the murders and kidnappings of these people. These are objective evils and the people working to put these criminals away are there for the greater good of public safety. But Sparma acts as an act of God, intentionally trying to rewrite the story to his own sick narrative. He wants to derail something that is already very difficult.
But then, there's also the attention issue. I have a hard time justifying this one, but I also want to contextualize it in the frame of looking for attention. Sparma is this over-the-top character. He's not exactly acting like a normal human being for any part of this movie. (Again, John Doe from Se7en.) He's very clever with his jokes. He has this cold demeanor, knowing how much he's riling up all of the people working to get justice for these girls. But if he didn't do it --and the movie definitely implies that he didn't do it --there has to be an element of sick fame behind it. He has all of these people looking deeply at him when they should be looking at someone else. And that's probably the thrill of it all. He's getting the vicarious attention that a serial killer would have without actually being one himself. My guess is that, if he wasn't killed in a bout of rage with a shovel, he would probably be a serial killer himself. But let's jump to that scene where Deke is on the roof, hiding from the police after his illegal search and seizure. He's there, showing off how clever he is. But he didn't commit the murder (probably). He never really gleans that self-awareness of how childish the whole thing actually is.
There's one element that kind of sticks in my craw. The movie has one too many elements to it. I know, I shouldn't be complaining about the complexity of a film. After all, I have a blog so I can analyze every nuance of a film. But Deke's background is almost arbitrary. I'm not exactly a John Lee Hancock fan, so please understand that this is kind of in line of that train of thinking. There are elements to this movie that are undercooked. Deke has this story that has been bugging him throughout the film. We know that he screwed up and went too far. It's kind of implying that Deke decided to break the rules of law enforcement and had to retire. But then, we discover that he accidentally killed one of the girls that he was trying to save. It's this big reveal at the end...that shouldn't have been treated as a reveal. We have the barrette acting as a far greater turn. If we had known that Deke had killed that woman, we could have understood the choices he made. There could have been something really fun to explore with that decision that we never really get.
It comes from the idea that the movie can't give us too much information. It so tightly kept secret that Denzel Washington can't exactly act that as motivation. There really could be an entire movie about a guy who has to deal with this major mistake. I mean, Die Hard did it and it worked as a great motivating factor for a character. But instead, we are left with a lot to absorb. I'm very cool with the ending of the movie with the barrette being kind of buried under a bunch of different moments. Also, the boots in the apartment is a very confusing shot. My wife and I both sat looking at the screen, wondering if he was the killer with the boots the whole time. This is a John Lee Hooker mistake. Hooker is implying that he abandoned everything in his apartment, including the evidence he was meant to bring back. But it doesn't read that way at all. It reads like those boots were Deke's the entire time and the investigation into Sparma was entirely meant to derail the investigation into him. Yeah, that would have been a dumb ending. So that artsy shot actually worked against the film as a whole.
But I liked it for the most part. I know I should be talking about Rami Malek, but he doesn't really do anything for me as a character. Instead, I was way more interested in the notion of a villain who didn't do the killing. That's the best part of this movie, chasing a guy who probably didn't do it. That's what makes The Little Things worth watching. Remember, it's January. That's not a great time for movies. For a January movie, it's pretty good.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.