Magazine article The New Yorker

Teen Beat

Magazine article The New Yorker

Teen Beat

Article excerpt

Teen Beat

There's no shortage of cinematic tropes when it comes to the teen-age boy, be he the geek with a master plan, the evil prepster, the hapless stoner, the alpha jock, or the singing, snapping gang member. "Little Men," a new film, by Ira Sachs, about best friends torn apart by parents feuding over Brooklyn real estate, would like to add another type to the canon: sensitive, wise, emotionally mature, and fiercely loyal. You know, as teen boys are.

The other day, Sachs's two young stars, Michael Barbieri (fourteen) and Theo Taplitz (thirteen), met up at the Brooklyn Museum, where the movie's final scenes, involving school field trips, had been shot a year earlier.

Taplitz, who has the pallor and vibe of a Victorian-novel protagonist, had just come from Cape Cod. "I got the most sun I think I've ever had in my life," he said. He lives in Laurel Canyon, Los Angeles--"but I'm a bit of a vampire."

Barbieri--charismatic, with a "Newsies"-esque accent--had flown in from Atlanta, where he's shooting "Spider-Man: Homecoming." He'd had breakfast with his parents, at their apartment in Battery Park.

As the teens, both hovering around five and a half feet tall, consulted a museum map, they discussed favorite artists.

"Da Vinci--ya know, the classics," Barbieri said. "Michelangelo."

"I've been getting into Turner's work," Taplitz said. "It's just very interesting, atmospheric."

They set off, swapping stories of how they got into acting. Barbieri began, "Since I was about three, I've always been playing baseball." When he was six, his brother John, sidelined from football, took to the stage; Barbieri followed. Eventually, "I had to give up either baseball or acting." He concluded, "I made the right choice."

"For me, I started around the second grade," Taplitz recalled. He was cast in an all-kid stage production of "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe." "I loved creating my own character, layering it in, just figuring out who this guy was." The role: animal No. 2 (a fruit bat).

In an exhibit called "Connecting Cultures: A World in Brooklyn," Barbieri sidled up to a large wooden sneaker from Ghana. "I'm a big sneakerhead--Foot Locker, Flight Club. Me and my friends, we camp out sometimes. Our interests strictly consist of sneakers, movies, and sports." He wore a pair of pristine white Jordan Jumpmans.

"I call this!" Taplitz said, admiring a nineteenth-century model of the planets. He read the description: "Complex and beautiful scientific instruments . …

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