Little (2019) is a body swap comedy; a la the Tom Hanks led classic “Big”. Directed by Tina Gordon and written by Gordon and Tracy Oliver, Little follows Jordan Sanders (Regina Hall), who is the CEO of a vague tech company. They do something with apps but also make Alexa style smart home machines called “Home Girls.” We get to see Jordan in her normal environment, pushing children over, not having time for emotion in her sex (just like in this Michelle Wolf sketch), and generally terrorizing everyone around her, especially her personal assistant, April (Issa Rae). One day she messes with the wrong kid and gets a curse placed on her that turns her into a younger version of herself, played by Marsai Martin. From there we get a pretty standard, uninspired, buddy film. The few interesting bits were lost in an unfocused script, intent on having Rae and Martin share the spotlight, instead of zeroing in on Martin, our true lead, and allowing the supporting cast to… support. That isn’t to say this film is all misses.
The amount of Black Girl Magic on display here is almost unheard of. This is a film with 2 black female writers, a black female director, two black female leads, one of whom, Marsai Martin, has made history as the youngest executive producer Hollywood has ever seen, plus the fact that the plot of this movie hinges on literal black girl magic? As a staunch advocate of representation not just in front of the camera, but behind it as well, I just can’t be upset with that, it’s impossible. Unfortunately that magic doesn’t exactly translate to the screen. Little doesn’t offend… most of the time. The acting is serviceable, the camerawork is bland but not distractingly so, the writing is heavy on the Tell, not so much the Show. It does what it needs to do, like an okay made for T.V. film, the kind you’d find on Freeform. Sticking to a rigid three act structure but splitting the 1 hour 49 minute runtime what felt like equally between our two leads.
The most interesting aspect of the film for me was Jordan Sanders’ wicked personality having been developed to defend her from middle school bullies. I expected to watch a CEO use business acumen to school some middle schoolers. Instead she gets thoroughly trounced, doesn’t even really pick a fight, and definitely doesn’t end up winning, not against the main antagonist at the middle school anyway. Most of the characters introduced at the middle school are one note and unimportant, just as most characters at the open work space during April’s plotlines are. During the third act, we’re torn between a big pep rally at the school and a big pitch meeting for an app both of which are meant to be the climaxes for our two main characters. Both fall flat because neither was set up for success.
In the end, Little misses many opportunities to make bigger more profound points, the way Bo Burnham’s “8th grade” did, but from a minority perspective. Its world and characters were over the top, but awkwardly grounded in reality. At the end of the day, this was clearly one little step for cinema, one giant leap, for Marsai Martin’s career.
|RELEASE DATE:||April 12 2019|