Little Man Tate (1991)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Childhood Drama, Family Drama  |   Release Date - Oct 9, 1991 (USA)  |   Run Time - 99 min.  |   Countries - United States  |   MPAA Rating - PG
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Review by Karl Williams

The directorial debut of actress Jodie Foster, this comedy-drama about a Cincinnati boy genius is one of the decade's most underrated gems, based on a nearly flawless script by Scott Frank that is chock full of wit, intelligence, emotional insight, and a gentle good humor. The performances here are uniformly excellent, particularly that of Dianne Wiest as a fellow, adult genius whose remarkable brains don't extend to a self-knowledge of her own fragile egotism and bitterness. Foster is less convincing as a blue-collar hausfrau if only because her innate taste and astuteness tend to shine through her slightly underdeveloped role (a brief sojourn for her character in Florida also smacks of narrative artifice, the script needing for her to leave the stage momentarily). These are the few minor flaws in a structurally air-tight, compelling, and utterly satisfying film, proving that Woody Allen and his Manhattan stomping grounds don't have the market cornered on the presentation of brilliant, funny, and absorbing human entertainment. Little Man Tate is a charming film destined to be discovered with delight by weekend cable TV viewers and video rental seekers willing to try something different. Frank found less fertile artistic ground for his next three films, all of them dark crime thrillers, Dead Again (1991), Final Analysis (1992), and Malice (1993). It was only when he returned to material with an underpinning of sly humor that his work began earning the label of "modern classic" again, with such films as Get Shorty (1995) and Out of Sight (1998).