Saturday, March 22, 2014

Little Man Tate

Little Man Tate; drama, USA, 1991; D: Jodie Foster, S: Adam Hann-Byrd, Jodie Foster, Diane Wiest, Harry Connick, Jr., David Hyde Pierce

The seven year old Fred Tate exceeds intellectually as much as he fails socially: he could already read at the age of one, and quickly learned how to play a piano, paint, compose songs and study physics. His mother, waitress Dede, is very proud of him, but notices that he has no friends and is an outsider. Reluctantly, she allows psychologist Jane Grierson to enlist Fred in a school for child prodigies, where the environment would be far more fitting his talents. Fred thus meets other gifted children, like Damon, and adult student Eddie, who wants to have good relations with him, but not be his real friend. While appearing in a TV show about gifted children, Fred gets tired of everything and returns to his mother. Some time later, he celebrates his eight birthday.

Jodie Foster's directorial debut film, "Little Man Tate" is a "Rain Man" for kids, a quiet, calm, mostly measured, but not enough thought out drama to exploit all its rich potentials to the fullest. The movie belongs in the category of child prodigies who are intellectual geniuses, but who also suffer from that gift socially since the people around them do not understand them, and in that sense it is a well presented and proportionally honest story where the main actor, Adam Hann-Byrd, gives a good balance - he is neither too autistic, nor too 'sugary' like many kid actors in other movies. However, the simplified story stops there and does not go deeper into exploring all the possibilities with respect to a truly great pay-off for viewers. For all its noble messages and intentions, it is a movie that only superficially handles the power of intelligence, yet does not give a deeper glimpse into the human spirit. The movie has enough charm, though - despite its story that seems as if it is second act is missing - like the scene where Fred is filling out a job application form for his mother or when it is revealed that he could have already read at the age of one.


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