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Little Man Tate Review

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The waitress mother of a 'genius' child attempts to protect him from the pressures his brilliance inevitably brings.

★★★★★

Jodie Foster's directorial debut is a nice little film, but what audience it's actually for is a poser. Families, perhaps, since the central character is a physically frail, mind-bogglingly brilliant seven-year-old who composes, solves physics problems, has an ulcer and wants more than anything "someone to eat lunch with". Foster is his single, tough cookie cocktail waitress mum, who dotes on the kid but doesn't want him to be a freak. Dianne Wiest is the child psychologist who turns prodigies into celebrities.

While both Foster as the sassy but nurturing mother and Wiest as the cold brain are excellent in their tug-of-war for the boy's allegiance, they present wildly exaggerated extremes if this is supposed to be addressing seriously the subject of gifted children. Still, it's sweet natured and gently humourous, particularly when the pipsqueak is packed off to university where, among other learning experiences he is befriended by campus cut-up and pool hustler Harry Connick Jr.

All those years observing on sets through her own unusual childhood were not wasted on Foster, who handles the child - unsurprisingly - with great sympathy, but also shows assurance with the film as a whole.

If it is, after all, only a small, pleasant film, no one can accuse her of biting off more than she can chew, and the result bodes well enough for her future behind the camera.