Frustrating pacing nearly derails superior performances and great co-star chemistry in the new film Little, a sweet confection still great for a night out with your gal pals. Though it proves itself uneven, it is also a nice reminder to stay anchored to your true self.
Comedies celebrating black girl magic are all too rare. Even rarer is one written and directed by women. It also boasts the youngest executive producer in Marsai Martin, who dreamed up the idea at 10 after seeing the movie Big. Martin is also one of the stars, playing Jordan Sanders at 13. Film fans who root for and support diversity in films made by major Hollywood studios, (Little is being released through Universal Studios) can feel justified in heading out to theaters to see it, so magnetic are the leads as they perform, whether alone or as with each other.
Tech company mogul Jordan Sanders (Regina Hall) runs her business with not only an iron fist, but an unforgiving one. She has her beleaguered assistant April (Issa Rae) measure the distance between the bed and her slippers in centimeters. She disallows any carbs in the office. She shoots down anyone else’s ideas in meetings, cuts in line for her morning cappuccino, and cuts off people in traffic. She may be cruel, but she’s successful. When she magically reverts to her 13-year-old self (played by Marsai Martin), she is confronted with the bullying that led her to being a bully herself.
It is in the scenes with Martin as the younger Jordan that the film is at its most entertaining. Rae lights up the screen in her every scene, and there is an honesty and authenticity when she and Martin play off each other that brings more heft to what would otherwise be feather light. The audience can’t possibly get behind Jordan until she changes to her younger age and starts getting some of her own back from the cruelest girl in middle school. As an adult in a child’s body, Martin plays up the sophistication and entitlement, which at times strikes as off-putting, but she is altogether believable. As we start to see the cracks in her armor, and watch her reach out to April for help, the audience is pulled in and finally connects with her fragility. Unfortunately, several scenes have editing and pacing issues which turn awkward what might have been highly memorable moments in film.
Still, together these women have such star power, they are a joy to watch, regardless of the film’s issues. We are reminded that any of these three, and no doubt countless other women of color out there wishing to headline a studio film, could benefit from more scripts and better, more frequent representation at the multiplex.
3 out of 5 stars