The Little Things Movie Discussed and Explained

The Little Things Movie Discussed and Explained
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I apologize. First, I hate that all of my post titles include the word EXPLAINED and yet, by simply adding that word in the title it increases the visitor rate by at least 300%. Not gonna lie. But I don’t really think of myself as EXPLAINING anything to you. What I like doing with movies is to open them up, sort of walk through them, and call out the basic key skeleton of the important events. Just a reminder really. I’m sure I’m not going to call out anything you didn’t notice. Heck, I expect you’ll notice something I didn’t and I hope you’ll comment about them in the comments. Because if you don’t, I’ll be angry. And you don’t want to see me angry. Trust me. And then after we do our walkthrough I’ll comment on a couple of the overarching messages and ideas that really lit me up like a christmas tree. And after that, I expect you to tell us all the insights that really resounded for you. And that is what I do here at THiNC. I’m not a movie review website, even though there is a score that I give the movie (this one is 4.5, you see that, right?) So let’s do this – “The Little Things Movie Discussed and Explained”.

First, If you haven’t seen The Little Things – this post should be plutonium to you right now. Just walk away and take this as a very stern warning that if you don’t watch this film you and I can’t be friends. Okay? That’s about as full tilt a movie recommendation I can give. I mean, I could eventually take out a fatwā out on you if you don’t watch? I guess that would escalate things a bit? Let’s not do that though. Let’s just watch the film, okay? Good. And if you need help finding out how to watch, feel free to do so in theaters, or right here on HBO Max.

The Little Things Walkthrough – SPOILERS

Alright, let’s walk through this movie. Last warning, from here on out, here be dragons. One night set back in the 90’s California, a woman is stalked by someone on the highway. She pulls over at a gas station and runs for her life (I mean, is this your life choice if someone is chasing you in their car… to abandon your car and run?!? Note to the reader, this was a supremely idiotic life choice. Regardless, thankfully, she is able to grab the attention of a passing truck driver, and barely escape this particular death hunt.

Cut to, Deke, Joe Deacon (played by Denzel Washington) who is asked by his boss to head into his old territory – the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department – in order to pick up some evidence that was needed for an investigation they were conducting. But, for some reason, Deke is just not of the mind to go. Huh. Wonder why? File that one away… but probably not important, right? hahaha. Well, when he gets there, he happens to follow the cops out to the scene of a murder where Deke notices some similarities between a couple of murders that happened in an old serial murder case that he couldn’t ever quite solve. Later that same night, a woman that was jogging is reported AWOL with the police the next day.

Baxter (played by Rami Malek – uh, Mr. Robot, anyone?), the lead investigator on this new serial murder case is curious as to why Deke is showing back up in the middle of his investigation. But he’s open to learning what the old dinosaur might see that he is missing. Eventually he learns the Deke got divorced, suffered a heart attack, and got suspended all during one particularly troublesome case. But although everyone advises Deke to leave the case alone, he doesn’t listen. And he even goes so far to see a few things at the crime scene that no one else sees. All of which intrigues Baxter thoroughly. Especially after he learns from Deke’s boss that he has taken vacation suddenly. “Do you think a guy like Deke takes vacation to play golf?”

Another night, and another washed up body of another victim that matches this killer’s same M.O. Aka: prostitute, stabbed, bag over head… etc. When Deke goes back to the crime scene, he realizes that the refrigerator was broken, and some things were spoiled, and a couple other things weren’t. Hrmmm? The murderer brought beer and milk to have a little party after the murder? But also, he pieces together that the murdered woman probably called a appliance repair company nearby – and that there might be a connection between the murder and the employees. Which is how Deke begins investigating an appliance repear employee named Albert Sparma (played brilliantly by Jared Leto (Blade Runner 2049)).

At first it is just Deke who is watching Sparma. But after Deke brings Sparma in for questioning, and Sparma just trolls the two men to high heaven, Deke and Baxter begin working together to catch Sparma in a screw up. Worse, because of the department’s inability to make progress on the serial killings, the FBI is called in within the week. Which gives Deke and Baxter just a little more time to closet he noose around Sparma’s throat. Or there own?

Interestingly, back when Deke was hunting the murderer on the same case, Deke was taunted by Sparma via a false confession. He couldn’t have committed the murders, why? He was ten miles away at the time of the prostitute’s death. Worse, Sparma is an obsessive crime scene follower. We know this because Deke breaks into Sparma’s house, and finds a stash of news articles, and other memoriabilia from these serial killer hunts by the police. Apparently he religiously hunts information on the police, their investigations, and serial killers. (Basically he’s a Redditor… hahah. Or a modern day true-crime podcast listener, or heck, a Serial listener! hahah.) But is he a murderer? That is the question that Deke and Baxter have got to sort out.

Well, one night, when Deke and Baxter are staking out Sparma’s house, Sparma calls Baxter on a nearby pay phone (to my younger readers out there, a pay phone is like a cell phone, but you put quarters into it, and it used copper to send voice through cables in the ground. Yeah, archaic. I know.) and the two of them soon after find themselves driving out of town together to see where Sparma buried his first victim. Deke follows the pair, but loses them near their final destination. And Sparma tells Baxter that in this field is where he buried her. So Baxter begins digging. But Sparma is just messing with Baxter. Baxter is beyond logical at this point. He can’t see it. He can’t see how Sparma has got him by the short hairs, and is just tweaking his brain intentionally. Messing with him. Baxter is desperate though. He KNOWS that Sparma had to have done it. So this field has got to have a body in it somewhere. HAS TO. But, after the third or fourth hole, Baxter flips out, and smacks Sparma in the face with the shovel. Instantly killing him. Hrmm. Well that changes things really quickly. As luck would have it, Deke finally finds Baxter, and tells him that Sparma definitely had to have done it, and that right now Baxter needs to bury the body, and cover up the other holes. That he’ll be back in a few hours.

Deke heads back to Sparma’s house and goes through every single item in his apartment. Bagging everything in trash bags as he went. Eventually he comes back to the hidden repository of crime articles under the floor boards of his living room. This has to be where the evidence will be to prove that Sparma was the serial killer they were looking for. Cut back to Deke arriving back at the field where Sparma was killed by Baxter. But instead of spending the last couple hours burying Sparma – instead he spent the intervening time digging more random holds. 50 holes? He went nuts digging holes. Why? Because he has to know that what he just did was justifiable somehow. To assuage his soul, he needs the final scrap of evidence to prove that he himself isn’t a murderer. But instead, that he can remain a white hat. A good guy. Someone on the side of the moral good… and not a demon like Sparma.

Deke returns, and helps him bury the body. He also tells Baxter that he needs to let this case go. That it is “All The Little Things” that will get him caught for this murder. But it is durning these last few minutes that we begin to get flashbacks to Deke’s original work on this case. It turns out that when coming to a murder scene, a woman had been terrorized by the serial killer came stumbling out of the bushes, at which point, Deke shot her in the chest and killed her. We also learn that Deke worked with the medical examiner to cover up the killing. Which is ultimately what caused Deke his marriage, gave him a heart attack, and send him to a totally different precinct to work as a standard beat cop.

After Baxter takes vacation leave in order to spend time with his wife and daughters, Deke has a package delivered to Baxter. In the manilla envelope is a not that says, “No Angels”. And he also finds inside one more thing. A red barret. Earlier, when the serial killer murdered the jogger, they believed that he took the runner’s red barrette as a memento of the kill. It was missing from the scene of the crime. But here was the barrette! Deke found it in Sparma’s apartment. And just like that, a wave of guilt, stress, and anxiety instantly sheds itself from not only Baxter, but literally everyone in the theater who has been collectively holding their breath together. AHHHH!! PHEW! That was a close one. Because Baxter has got to be one of the good guys. Right? So I’m so glad that we got that taken care of before we cut to credits.

Later, Deke returns to his home where he has the last few bags of increminating evidence which he puts in a barrel to burn. Can’t have any of this evidence coming back to bite either Baxter or himself. Right? But then, in what would seem like almost an after thought, Deke takes out one last bag of items. And there he pulls out a package of barrettes he had obviously just purchased. And there? Was one missing. The red one was gone. So wait, what? Deke bought a red barrette and sent it to Baxter? Why? Well, if I have to answer that question for you, then I’m sorry… but how did you get this far in this post?

Thoughts on The Little Things

Deke was a white hat. He is a hero. This is an individual that cares more about justice, truth, and the American Way than anyone else we can think of. Sure, he was a little down in his luck. But ultimately we know that this guy is a hero. This is a guy that we can trust with our children. We can invite him over have him for dinner. Deke is a good one. So too is Baxter. A bit of a radical Christian, but he too cares passionately about using technology, and superior investigation skills in order to bring justice to the world. Both of these guys are our stereotypical idea of what truth and justice look like. These are good men. Not good in the adjectival sense of the word. Good with a capital G. Morally.

Which is why this movie is so brilliant. Once we reach the end and begin to look backwards, we start to realize that we might have been hunting the wrong evil all along. No? Instead of hunting Sparma, maybe we should have spent our time hunting Deke and Baxter instead? Maybe we wouldn’t go that far… but of all the killers we watched in this movie, the two killers we know we witnessed for a fact were the two cops sitting in front of us all along.

The Little Things – Did Sparma Do it?

This is the question of the entire movie. Did Sparma kill all these women? This is the reason you are on this page. 100% guarantee it. We all want to know the answer to this question. DID HE DO IT?! Is Sparma the guy?? And I actually know the answer. This is a knowable detail of the story. How? How is it possible? You just have to be really, really-really, anal! hahah. But I will tell you this, the answer ultimately doesn’t matter. Why?

The reason it doesn’t matter whether or not Sparma did it is because both Deke and Baxter were 100% wrong. There isn’t any grey here. They both conspired to cover up a murder. Baxter killed Sparma in cold blood with nothing more than a “hunch” that he was the murderer. But what evidence did Baxter have? Sparma fit a generic profile that fit the psychographics of the murderer. Ok. But so did like 400,000 other Angelinos. Sparma also happened to work at the appliance repair shop that came to service one of the murder victim’s refrigerators. Weird. Ok. Sparma was also obsessed with the serial murderer crimes of the area… he religiously stalked the police reports and had a cop radio scanner in his apartment. Huh. Okay. Now, I don’t know if you know what the word “Circumstantial” means… but, this is literally the core of definition circumstantial. 100%. There is literally nothing tying Sparma to the murders that happened throughout the 80’s and 90’s. Zero.

“But wait, YOU SAID YOU KNOW IF SPARMA DID IT! HOW?!?!” I do know. And the movie tells you the answer if you are paying close enough attention. Alright, alright, I’ll tell you. For goodness sakes!

The really nice thing about Covid is that movies that are releasing at the theater are also releasing simultaneously online. Which means that you are able to watch them on your computer. You can rewind. You can zoom in. You can watch things over… and over… and over again. Which, I have done. And at the beginning of the movie is the only time that we watch as the murderer stalks a victim that ultimately gets away. Well, during that scene I snagged a scrape of the only moment we seen the stalker’s face. I jacked up the brightness, dropped the contrast, and zoomed way in.

Huh. Is that him???!? Did you forget what Sparma looked like? Here, here’s a reminder:

Yeah, no. That is not Jared Leto acting in that role in the beginning. Not even a little bit. Also, we know this because if you watch that man’s gate, he doesn’t walk with a limp like Sparma did throughout the movie. There wasn’t a hitch in his step at all. We also know that the witness’ testimony was absolutely destroyed when she sees Sparma there in the police department. “Maybe I could take another look at him? I mean, you have him here at the station, right?” So she assumed the police had the right guy. They accidentally led the witness. The screenplay writer went out of his way to let us know that Sparma was innocent. I mean, he wasn’t innocent of being an idiot. He definitely was that. But not a murderer, that is for sure.

But What Does That Mean?

That is a great question random reader. Really great. Actually, it’s so great, I’m not going to pull any punches with my answer. Random interwebs reader, it basically means that you are a horrible person. No really. hahah. Hear me out. It means you can’t tell the difference between a guilty individual and an innocent individual. It means that like Baxter and Deke, you want to believe what you want to believe. And like Leonard in Memento, you are guilty of arranging the evidence to suit the narrative you would like to believe.

It also means that it is really difficult to be a cop that is unbiased, and unprejudiced. (I mean, let’s just take race completely off the table – if that is even possible.) It means that leading with your heart as an investigator is always the wrong thing to do. To follow the evidence, and not to make leaps of irrational illogic (is irrational illogic – logic? Did I just double negative?? bah.) is extraordinarily difficult. Deke accidentally murdered a victim/survivor. He was vested. He sold his entire life out to finding this guy. He went so far as to lasso Baxter into his hunt as well. And like Leonard in Memento he went out of his way to lie to Baxter as the movie was ending. He made Baxter, and then he assuaged his guilt. (It’s like Leonard writing on the polaroid that Lenny did it. He took advantage of himself.) It’s worse than sad… it’s really tragic. Sure, I don’t mourn Sparma even a moment. But Sparma was denied any sort of justice, that’s for sure.

I don’t know, what do you guys think? Do you think Sparma did it? And if you think he did, where did I miss it? Or if you don’t think he did it, what does it mean for Baxter and Deke?