At first glance, Little Manhattan might be mistaken as a rather trivial account of a boy and his first love in the ocean chock-full of Hollywood romantic comedies. The ten-word synopsis about two ten-something kids who fall in love in New York City does little, if none, in showing the actual depth of this movie. But if you are willing to dig deeper into it, you will find a whimsical, sweet, and heart-warming story of a eleven-year old boy named Gabe, who can still teach all of us a thing or two about love and life.
Gabe is a normal eleven-year old kid living in New York City, who hangs only with boys and believes that girls his age have cooties. He loves football, basketball, music, and riding his scooter around the nine blocks of his parents’ apartment. You can say that life has been a fulfilling and happy journey for him so far, still pretty much unscathed from the ugly impacts of his parents’ decision to separate. Gabe spends most of his afternoons practicing placekicking with his father, believing that he can be the Tiger Woods of placekicking. When he decides to try another sport, karate, he meets Rosemary Telesco in the class. Now, Rosemary is one of his classmates ever since the kindergarten years, but Gabe never interacts much with her, except for a short stint before First Grade when they still play together. Karate class becomes a place for them to bond as they are paired as sparring partners for the practices. Gabe quickly finds out that he sucks at the sport, often beaten by Rosemary, before seeking help from her in the form of extra practices. The pair grows to enjoy each others’ company and ends up spending a lot of time together – from exploring New York on scooter to riding subway to the next part of town. Gabe realizes a weird feeling has taken root in his heart, and it makes him think of Rosemary all the time.
Little Manhattan will take you on Gabe’s life journey: how he handles the alien feeling he has toward Rosemary, the issue of maturity between girls and boys, and his discovery of new apprehension on the subject of love and life. For an eleven-year old boy, Gabe has some pretty deep wisdom to be imparted to us.
That love is not about ridiculous little words but grand gestures. About going that extra miles, even if it hurts. Letting it all hang out there. Love is about finding courage inside of you didn’t even know was there.
That epiphany about love is one of the many monologues happening inside Gabe’s head, forming an impressive collection of thoughts and observations on numerous subject matters in life. So, with the amount of monologues done by Gabe in this movie — almost 70% of the total conversations happening– Little Manhattan runs the risk of having character detachment and underdeveloped characters. But that is not the case here. I applaud the director’s and the scriptwriters’ ability in seamlessly transitioning the story from one part to the other — without any hitches caused by things lost in translation — while making sure that all characters get their alloted time in the movie.
A young Josh Hutcherson hits the ball out of the park with his performance as Gabe, my favorite character in the movie. He portrays him as a smart, funny, and considerate boy, who is trying to navigate one of the most confusing times in his life by himself. The opening scene of him bawling over a picture of Rosemary in bed, with voice cracking and face as red as a tomato, is priceless. It’s the one scene that kept me watching for the rest of the movie. Charlie Ray, a newcomer, made his debut as Rosemary Telesco, the object of Gabe’s affection. A doe-eyed girl with blonde hair and creamy complexion, Charlie complements Gabe’s physical appearance perfectly as well as his acting. She is a natural in front of camera, with a grace beyond her age. I love seeing them together; their chemistry is so alive.
Little Manhattan has got to be one of the best movies out there about first love, besides Flipped. I don’t think I have ever enjoyed seeing a movie so much lately, not one that I would be tempted enough to write a review about. The script is gold; the performance is stellar; and the overall atmosphere is just warm and happy. I genuinely felt so good after watching it, so filled to the brim with hope and this gooey feeling that makes me want to hug something. I can’t heap more praises upon this movie to justify how good it is. Just pick it up and watch. 5 out of 5.