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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 16.67%
Average: 16.67%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 0%

1 review, 12 user ratings

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Little Manhattan
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by Jason Whyte

"A perfect little comedy about a kid's first love."
5 stars

Ah, to be 10 years old and in love. It’s that strange point in one’s life where you aren’t exactly reaching puberty just yet, nor would you refer to yourself as a child, and your feelings aren’t exactly realized but they are certainly there. It’s that time where you notice that your parents are treating you more like an adult, even if you still have to be home right after school to do your homework.

What “Little Manhattan” gets exactly right, so flawlessly correct, is the torrents of emotion that go through you when you fall for somebody else at a young age. It has happened to all of us, and it happens to Gabe (Josh Hutcherson), a 10 year old boy who develops feelings for the beautiful Rosemary (Charlie Ray).

But let me back up a moment. The attraction is not instant, but gradual, as both Gabe and Rosemary have known each other on and off ever since they were in kindergarten. When the two meet up in a karate class, they are happy to see each other but almost stoic in their politeness. They become sparring partners and Gabe eventually comes over to Rosemary’s apartment to practice. They begin to talk more over cookies and milk, take slightly longer walks before parting ways and there are odd silences that they didn’t experience before. They start to call each other on the phone and arrange to spend time together. Something is happening.

All the while, Gabe narrates his experiences at this pivotal time in his life. Not only has Gabe fallen for Rosemary, but his parents (Bradley Whitford and Cynthia Nixon) are going through the first stages of divorce, and we experience all of Gabe’s confused feelings. Director Mark Levin was the producer of “The Wonder Years”, one of my favourite TV shows growing up and was famous for Daniel Stern’s wise narration as the adult form of Kevin Arnold. Here, with Levin’s direction and Jennifer Flackett’s excellent screenplay, Gabe’s narration comes at the two-week point after all of the relationship has subsided, a wise decision as we get all the “right now” feelings of Gabe’s frustration as Rosemary has taken over all of his emotions.

The film’s setting of residential Manhattan is one of the best I’ve seen since Woody Allen and Gordon Willis filmed the 1979 classic “Manhattan” with the famous shot of Woody Allen and Diane Keaton sitting on a park bench overlooking the Brooklyn bridge. It’s a city I have not yet ventured into, yet director Mark Levin and cinematographer Tim Orr (who is best known for his work in David Gordon Green’s films “All The Real Girls,” “George Washington” and “Undertow”) turns the green Central park, wide city corners, theatre marquees and Rosemary’s deluxe apartment (her parents are producers of a successful soap opera that her nanny is obsessed with) into characters.

I’ve read some New York based reviews that criticize the non-reality of Gabe’s surroundings, but we have to remember that we’re watching a positive look at a glorious city through the eyes of a 10 year old boy and an 11 year old girl. A positive review by writer Dustin Putman refers to the film as a love letter to New York, and I couldn’t agree more. Shouldn’t we embrace the love of a city in a movie instead of slamming it for what it was never trying to do in the first place?

I have seen lots of interesting young performers in films before, yet there’s just something natural, so wonderfully real about Gabe and Rosemary, played here by Josh Hutcherson and Charlie Ray in two excellent and memorable performances. Hutcherson, who was seen last year in “Zathura” and is coming up later this year as Robin Williams’ son in “RV”, hits just the right note as a precocious kid who confuses his feelings about Rosemary. I especially liked a moment where he decides to go out for a haircut since his mom – badly -- cuts his hair for free (we see a few quick edits of his past haircuts), and in doing so he gains more 10-year-old confidence.

Charlie Ray reminds me a bit of a young Mischa Barton (and by that I am referring to the younger, talented Barton I remember from the “Lost and Delirious” and “Lawn Dogs” days), and in her first film shows remarkable confidence as a young girl who does feel something towards Gabe, but doesn’t know how to deal with her emotions as her life is moving along to a six-week summer camp and eventually to private school. She is only 11, after all.

The supporting work is also memorable, especially from Bradley Whitford and Cynthia Nixon as Gabe’s parents, both of which have their own moments with their son as they work on a sad divorce. There is also the elevator operator (Willie Garson) at Gabe’s apartment who develops a crush on another tenant, and happily pushes for the relationship of Gabe and Rosemary. There is also a karate instructor in Gabe’s imagination that helps him out at some pivotal points, too.

“Little Manhattan” is a joy, a happy film and memorable romantic comedy that was given a pathetic theatrical release last September, most likely because there were no names attached to the project and there was probably no way for them to market a movie about the joy and sadness of young love. It is sad to think that this movie didn’t even scratch a half-million at the box office, yet Fox had no problem unleashing “Big Momma’s House 2” onto thousands of screens earlier this year. Here is a movie that is wise and funny without pandering, following Gabe and Rosemary all the way through their relationship without copping to a feel good ending (although there is a pleasant finale that we weren’t expecting) and gives us something to think about long after the end credits have rolled.

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originally posted: 03/27/06 06:31:20
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User Comments

3/19/09 me adorable is the best word to describe it.! 4 stars
1/14/09 Anonymous. it was ok...i think the kids were a little too young to make it believable...but cute. :] 3 stars
7/12/08 antonio it was a reall y good movie 5 stars
5/20/08 stephanie It was completely adorable and realistic. A movie EVERYONE should see 5 stars
3/30/08 Kelsey Great movie, but the turning point came a little too soon, in my opinion. 4 stars
1/14/08 Abhishek Chakraborty One for the girls. lol...the lack of user ratings has given it an unrealistically rating 3 stars
8/18/07 leila evangelista little manhattan gives a refreshing take on love that we take for granted 5 stars
11/28/06 marcus who was the blonde on the elevator? 4 stars
11/06/06 Bonnie Mills It made me feel happy,it was touching 5 stars
8/30/06 Gail I was enraptured 5 stars
3/28/06 Joe Schiappa Not bad, not good 3 stars
2/21/06 Abigail it was the cutest movie ever!! 5 stars
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  30-Sep-2005 (PG)
  DVD: 04-Apr-2006



Directed by
  Mark Levin

Written by
  Flackett Levin

  Josh Hutcherson
  Charlie Ray
  Bradley Whitford
  Cynthia Nixon

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