I remember being 13-years old. I remember it like it was yesterday. My best friend at the time was this kid named Mike. Mike and I lived in different cities and went to different high schools. Every day after classes I’d race home and burn through my homework so he and I could talk on the telephone. We would chat for hours about music and pro wrestling. On the weekends we would hang out. We would watch one of our favorite bad movies (The Avenging Disco Godfather) and walk to our favorite comic book shop or get hamburgers at a local diner. We loved to find pay phones to use to prank call our other friends. Mike was the first real “pal” that I ever had. Those were some of the best times of my life.
“Little Men” is about that same time. Set in Brooklyn, it follows the story of Jake (Theo Taplitz) and Tony (Michael Barbieri), two polar opposites who became friends when Jake’s family move into his grandfather’s apartment building after he passed away. In addition to inheriting the apartment, Jake’s father, Brian (Greg Kinnear), inherited the storefront space on the ground floor. That space is occupied by a dress store owned by Tony’s mother, Paulina.
Upon meeting, the boys become fast friends. They play video games and spend time at the park together. The gregarious and athletic Tony makes a great foil for the artistic and bookish Jake. Viewers soon learn that Tony wants to become an actor and Jake wants to attend art school.
The story becomes knotty when Jake’s father and aunt (who also co-inherited the building) decide to raise the rent for the store. Bad feelings between Tony’s mother and Jake’s family ensue. Using the logic of 13-year old boys, the two friends decide to give their parents the “silent treatment” in hopes of alleviating the situation. It, of course, doesn’t work. Soon the situation between the adults sours to the point that it impacts the relationship between the boys.
“Little Men” is complex in its simplicity. The story is straightforward but the nuances aren’t. To 13-year old eyes, friendship easily trumps the cold dealings of business. Unfortunately, that is not how the (adult) world works. Hard choices have to be made sometimes.
The lynchpin of the film is the relationship between the boys…