Todd Field wants you to know that he doesn’t have any interest in slamming the suburbs.
Despite the small-town New England settings he loves and the dark, unsettling themes that permeate his films, In the Bedroom
and Little Children, the actor-turned-director has no intention of drawing condescending distinctions between city-dwellers
and their suburban neighbors.
“I was born in Pomona, but I grew up in the Northwest,” says Field, who now lives in Maine. “I enjoyed my
childhood there, but my town has changed quite a bit. It’s gone from a small, rural environment to high-density housing
and strip malls. I wanted to reside in a place that I have an affinity for, and I’ve found those places all over New
England. Californians haven’t moved there and developed them to death yet.
“So I have a personal connection to the suburbs, but I don’t have any specific interest in them,” he adds.
“I don’t know what the suburbs mean to people. It’s a fuzzy thing, considering that our society is fairly
homogenous – we all dress the same, listen to the same music, like cows at a feed-bin. I don’t think suburbia
exists anymore, and if it does, it doesn’t need to be sent up. I grew up there, and some of the most interesting people
I’ve ever met came from there, but I’ve also met those types of people in London and New York.”
With Little Children, his new adaptation of Tom Perrotta’s 2004 bestseller about parents plagued by domestic
discontent and personal failure, Field ventures into the darkest corners of – you guessed it – suburban Massachusetts,
scratching deep beneath an otherwise placid surface to expose the turbulent emotions below. Doing so with Perrotta as his
co-screenwriter simply made the experience easier.
“In the Bedroom was a short story,” Field explains. “Andre Dubus, the author, was incredibly supportive,
but he didn’t write the script. In this case, it was my first and only experience that I’ve had with a novelist
as my writing partner, and it was fantastic. He’d written other scripts, and he understood there would have to be immediate
choices made that would signify great departures from his novel. More than anything else, he imagined these characters into
existence, and I got to talk to him about them.”
Regardless of any departures from Perrotta’s acclaimed novel, Little Children has already won over many of the
same critics who declared In the Bedroom a masterpiece. At 42, with only two directorial credits under his belt, the
former Jury Prize recipient at the Sundance Film Festival been labeled a “calmly confident master” by the Wall
Street Journal, while Newsweek has praised his “mastery of a craft that many filmmakers never achieve in
Just don’t expect the accolades to go to his head.
“I’ve always tried to go about my work in a practical way, but I don’t know that I have a certain style,”
he admits. “There are so many fantastic filmmakers working today – Susanne Bier, Béla Tarr, David Cronenberg,
Paul Thomas Anderson – take your pick, they’re ridiculously talented. They influence me not so much as a director
but as an audience member. When I leave the theater, I walk a little differently, think a little differently.
“I wouldn’t consider myself in the same sentence as any of those filmmakers. They are masters, and they have bodies
of work that reflect that. I’ve only made two feature films, and I’m very happy with my work, but I’m just
beginning. I pray that there’s much more to come.”