Review: ‘Little Man Tate’

Jodie Foster makes an appealing, if modest, directorial debut with Little Man Tate. Scott Frank (Dead Again) penned this nicely observed tale of a year in the life of a seven-year-old genius.

Jodie Foster makes an appealing, if modest, directorial debut with Little Man Tate. Scott Frank (Dead Again) penned this nicely observed tale of a year in the life of a seven-year-old genius.

An accomplished painter, poet and pianist in addition to being a math wizard, Fred Tate (Adam Hann-Byrd) is being raised by his single mother, a mildly tough working-class woman whom he, along with the rest of the world, calls Dede (played with a vulgar accent by Foster).

Before long Fred comes to the attention of wealthy Jane Grierson (Dianne Wiest), a child psychologist and teacher of the gifted. Fred moves in with her when he is invited to attend a summer college course, and strikes up an engaging relationship with a somewhat older, titanically arrogant math genius named Damon (memorably impersonated by P.J. Ochlan).

Most of the film’s emotional power lies in the open, alert, eager-to-please face of Hann-Byrd, making his acting debut. Filled with small, telling moments rather than big events, film never really gets inside Fred’s head, but it neatly sketches the external aspects of his predicament.

Little Man Tate

Production

Orion. Director Jodie Foster; Producer Scott Rudin, Peggy Rajski; Screenplay Scott Frank; Camera Mike Southon; Editor Lynzee Klingman; Music Mark Isham; Art Director Jon Hutman

Crew

(Color) Available on VHS, DVD. Extract of a review from 1991. Running time: 99 MIN.

With

Jodie Foster Dianne Wiest Adam Hann-Byrd Harry Connick Jnr David Pierce P.J. Ochlan
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