waynepygram.com: Little Manhattan Movie Review

waynepygram.com: Little Manhattan Movie Review

You want a love story? There's a real New York love story.

What is it? 90-minute long theatrical-release romantic...comedy? Dramedy? Film.
Where did it air? Well, it was originally in movie theaters way the hell back in 2005, although potentially as a limited-release only. Since then - and believe it or not - it actually aired semi-regularly on Disney Channel from about late 2010 (around the time of Debby Ryan's 16 Wishes premiere) to around April/May 2013 on its final airing on that network, which is where I first saw it (and likely earning the honor of the highest-acclaimed film and "most street cred" film in the network's entire history). I don't know where it's aired since, but I went out and got the DVD (from the library because I'm a cheapskate, natch) specifically for this review.
Who stars in it? This is actually one of the most interesting aspects the film has to offer, not the least of which is "fetus" (the kids still use that word, right?) Josh Hutchenson - yes, the same one of "Katniss Plays Coying Love Interest Between Peeta and Gale Under the Backdrop of Government Murder Conspiracies and Teen Girls Killing Other Teen Girls for Literal Sport" fame. Regular character actor Bradley Whitford also stars in it, along with one of my most favorite character actors of all time, Willie Garson, and a guy I would definitely pin as a dead-ringer for a douchebag version of Ben Stiller (well, more douchebaggy if you'd rather except I actually really like Ben Stiller). But most interestingly of all is Charlie Ray (yes, the main child female lead - I guess Good Luck Charlie was on to something after all) who was in like exactly one role prior to this one and garnered a whole bunch of attention in this movie and after appearing in a few more bit roles in shorts and TV shows like Law & Order...pretty much completely disappeared from acting. Only to reappear just a very short couple of years ago (remember, this movie's over 10 years old now) in everything from a few episodes of Sneaky Pete (I've been told I need to watch that show even though I don't have Amazon Prime so whatever) to bit roles in Chelsea Lately.
Why are we reviewing this? Because of what I posed here.

See, in that link, where I explain my rationale for the ratings I give (and in particular explaining/defending my frequent F minus/F minus minus scores) I effectively posit that logically if there's an F minus minus then there must be an A plus plus and I even list out what the criteria would be to get that score - but if that's the case, what would qualify for an A++ score? Especially since no show, movie or anything up to that point got one.

Well, I went out and found one.

At its core, Little Manhattan is the very best of Woody Allen with tween protagonists - and no, it's not actually nearly as creepy as what that impression might give you. It's bittersweet, real and I'd even say gritty or at least raw in parts - it's unfiltered in all the sweet moments, but equally unfiltered in the most hateful moments of romantic relationships, the incredibly stupid and petty decisions and emotions that go into sinking what on the outside seem like matches made in heaven, and that romance is expressed regardless what age (well, within reason and limits, of course). The writing and directing is very sharp, practically perfect, and Josh (I'm too lazy to even bother to look up if I even spelled Hutchenson right in the first place) and Charlie really nail down their roles (again, Charlie in particular got a lot of buzz for her acting here which makes her really long sabbatical kinda puzzling). 

What makes it particularly high-quality and so much above other romance films or even comedies is that Allen-esque send-up or aversion of all the typical tropes associated with the genre. These aren't two lovebirds intentionally seeking each other out - they in fact have known each other for years, since five years old, and you have this little boy who's in this karate class with this girl he's known but hasn't really paid much attention to as a, you know, girl  - until when she starts kicking his ass in class (hey that rhymes), now all of a sudden she literally becomes the hottest woman to ever exist in the History of Ever. 

Another thing that sets it apart is that it's a very condensed yet effective treatise on the development of a romantic relationship through all its stages, from the falling in love to the honeymoon to the breakup. Gabe (Josh) and Rosemary (Charlie) do surprisingly mature and grown-up things together while maintaining that tween context, and it creates an almost fairy tale-like fantasy world contained entirely inside the absolute reality of Greenwich Village through Tribeca.  By that, I mean realistic, even super-mundane things that nonetheless take on a romantic context in a relationship are given exactly that proper context so that the viewer understands exactly why these things matter to these two characters.

Little Manhattan is...just perfect. Really, absolutely perfect. I'm not afraid to admit that way the hell back when, just a little over half a decade ago when I first saw this on one of its last Disney Channel airings March-ish 2013, I cried at the end. And when I got the DVD from the library specifically for this review...I cried at the end, again. All the things that add up - the players, how the story is told and frame, and just what the story even is - it just hits me right in the feels, mane.

Movie Grade: Well I kinda spoiled this given the whole setup for the review in the process but...A++, and earning the distinction of the first "perfect" grade even on this blog (even if cheating by design, somewhat).
Movie MVP: Yeah, I'm giving it to Charlie Ray on this one. She really does give it by herself a lot of what helps this movie earn its A++ status, and I can see why the critics were really taken by her in this one.

Extra Thoughts:

 - So, I'll also admit that I might be a little biased here since this movie actually hits pretty close to home because...I actually see a lot of myself and my ex (remember her?) in Gabe and Rosemary here. The resemblance is in broad strokes - and again, the film's ability to nail the broad strokes of any relationship is one of the reasons why I rank it so insanely highly - but, we actually did a lot of that same stuff together (including apartment hunting, for real). Most of all, the way my ex made me feel is the same way how Rosemary effected Gabe, and what certainly probably helped is that when I first saw this movie the breakup was still damn fresh in my mind (about half a year or so before I first saw it). In a lot of ways I feel I lived this movie, and it really hits hard every time I see it (hence why I bawl like a baby by the end).

 - in terms of housekeeping...yeah, it's a mess here. I still haven't seen the KCAs yet...even though the latecoming RDMAs have come and gone by almost a week by the time I finally push the "publish" button on this (and incidentally I think I began this post in May or something). I still haven't seen Thundermans and...stuff. Yeah.

 - Some of you might know Spongey444 from our comments section. ...Actually, speaking strictly statistically, most of you are Spongey444 (yeah small readership -_-). We've agreed to do a collab review on Z-O-M-B-I-E-S (yes I'm gonna insist on spelling it this way) so, I'll get off my ass now.
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