Little Man Tate

Director: Jodie Foster

Before he became famous adapting the novels of Elmore Leonard for Hollywood, screenwriter Scott Frank wrote this quietly powerful and compassionate film about a seven year old child prodigy named Fred, (played by newcomer Adam Hann-Byrd). Jodie Foster’s directorial debut is a curious choice considering she herself grew up as a kind of child actor prodigy and her compassion for the subject shines throughout. Foster also stars in the film as Fred’s admittedly hardworking but ignorant single mother, fiercely devoted to her son while wanting to ensure that he has a happy and normal childhood and her scenes defending his simple right to be a kid sting with authenticity that definitely calls attention to the life of Foster herself. Dianne Weist, (always the ultimate supporting actress) is equally fine as the other woman in Fred’s life—- a former child prodigy herself who now runs a school for the gifted and desperately wants to enroll Fred and make him the subject of her next book. Foster brilliantly depicts the ways in which flaws can outweigh good intentions and her film has much to say although admittedly the ending does feel a bit too quick and easy to believe. Frank’s screenplay is intelligent and heartfelt and he manages to raise a few questions about whether or not madness and genius go hand in hand that makes viewers interested in the topic wish there was closure than provided.