|Michael Barbieri in Ira Sach's Little Men
The film tells a story about two friends who must suffer the consequences of a business dispute between their parents. While the adults bicker and put up their defenses, the two boys roam the streets of Brooklyn, an image of the borough that is a stitched together pastiche of different neighborhoods. While it seems the kids live in the Greenpoint or Williamsburg neighborhood, the setting shifts between Sunset Park and Bay Ridge. We see the Verrazano Bridge in one sequence, and in another, a view of Lower Manhattan from Sunset Park. I am not sure whether Sachs was attempting to make a statement about the ever-shifting landscape of New York City, or simply painting a colorful, albeit nostalgic, portrait of several neighborhoods mashed into one.
But, I want to talk about my favorite scene in the movie. A quarter of the way through, it features a creative, energy-infused scene with one of the young protagonists Tony, played by Michael Barbieri.
The scene is great on many levels -- and it's hilarious to watch, especially as it pops out at you when watching the movie in the cinema. On the website Vulture, Kyle Buchanan made a thoughtful interpretation of the scene, as it relates to the larger story arc of the film. He mentions how Ira Sach's "explosive, funny sequence" nicely ties together the theme of silence and listening. While the adults fail in resolving conflicts, the two boys respond by making their friendship stronger. The two stage a protest by not talking to their parents.
Having done improvisations with young people, and having done improvisations myself as a young person, the scene reminded me of how truly transformative acting can be. Or, how acting out in an improvised way -- structured play -- brings out raw, creative energy. And that's what we see in Tony as he naturally mimics and expands on his Theater teacher's (Mauricio Bustamante) verbal phrasing and intonation of voice.
Here's the clip!
Media Credit: Magnolia Pictures