Welcome to Melanie Lynskey May!
Jill and I are big ML* fans at the best of times but especially since her amazing turn in I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore (review here) so what better way to honour someone we feel such an affinity with (she has to be exactly like the character of Ruth IRL, right?)?
Also, we’re pretty lame at ‘themes’.
Little Boxes (2016)
An interracial family struggles to adjust when they move from New York City to a small, predominately white town in Washington State.
Most people think they’re nuts for leaving the concrete jungle where dreams are made of but the couple are hopeful that this is the right move for all of them. They expect a period of adjustment but little do they know it’s going to be such a white knuckle ride. Sort of.
Gina and Mack are a mix-raced couple and this causes a minor stir in the mainly white suburban sprawl of their new neighbourhood.
One of the neighbours asks Mack if he can help him before realising he’s actually meant to be there, while Clark’s new friends, Ambrosia (Oona Laurence) and Julie (Miranda McKeon) embrace black culture wholeheartedly, to the consternation of their parents (or one parent, if we’re honest).
Clark in fact quickly befriends the popular girls who seem to get a kick out of his black heritage, orchestrating precocious dancing competitions for his sole benefit and referring to a famous female rapper as a ‘ho’. Which is slightly disconcerting, as is an incident that comes later between Clark and Ambrosia.
Gina isn’t comfortable when Clark comes home with magazines from the girls that appear to be objectifying women, and claims this isn’t how she wanted him “to learn about women.” Mack’s attitude to sex ed is a little more laissez faire.
Clark, for the most part, just seems bemused by most of the girls’ behaviour, and goes along with their ideas for something to do, though he’s self aware enough to realise he has to amp up his ‘blackness’ to retain their interest.
Gina herself has got in with some of the faculty, in particular a band of women (including the legend Janeane Garofalo) who like to drink extra-curricularly, and this takes her away from her family and their issues more than they’re all used to.
Mack is a writer struggling to adapt too (and for a while without wifi?!) and I think my favourite scene is when he visits the local bookstore looking for his own novel, which they don’t have in their very slim collection of contemporary fiction. The next time he passes the shop, the owner has built an impressive window display/shrine to Mack’s book and invites him to come in and do a reading. Which he declines but still.
This is a very gentle and observed film about adjustment, race and growing up, as well as love and sacrifice and it’s lovely but it’s not going to set the world alight (much like this review).
I like what it says about the hyper sexualisation of women, in rap and otherwise, and how that can have an adverse effect on young girls if nobody’s watching them. Which might not have been the main crux of this piece but that’s what I’ve taken away with me.
Thankfully for these rather dramatic little girls, mother is watching (the amazing Christine Taylor) and although her motivation is questioned by Mack and Gina, I like the way she handles herself.
And finally, I was delighted to watch Nelsan Ellis in this. He used to light up my life as Lafayette in True Blood. I enjoyed the chemistry between him and Lynskey, while obviously Melanie is the best thing in this.
You know what else? Mel was born in 1977 (birthday on May 16th), making her almost 40. Like a certain amateur film reviewer round here (me). It kind of reassures me, is that odd?
Anyway! Will Clark learn from his fresh mistakes and will the family finally settle in surburbia, or are they set to go running back to the Big Apple 🍎 where all their friends and family remain?
What does Wifey think? Would she move to the ‘burbs for this bad boy or let it go without her? Find out here.
*My second favourite ML, eh Meghan Lightle?