The rupture of a friendship since childhood of two high school swim team stars is examined in the captivating Giant Little Ones. Josh Wiggins is radiant in the lead role of Franky, even as he weathers a shattering false accusation of male-to-male sexual assault by his best friend, Ballas (a devilishly dashing Darren Mann). There’s a big problem here: it was actually Ballas who came on to Franky and initiated an act upon him that Franky stopped, and which Franky stopped without malice, it should be added. The situation as depicted is clear-cut and the perpetrator was clearly Ballas.
Ironically and unjustly, Franky is stigmatized by other students as gay with an oral fixation, though he has no erotic attraction to males. But it’s the reaction of Franky’s helicopter-parenting mother, Carly (a suitably annoying Maria Bello), who makes the same snap judgment as the supposedly less mature students. She jumps to conclude that her son must be gay, rather than homosexually assaulted.
Carly is haunted by the fact that her husband, Franky’s father, Ray (a reserved Kyle MacLachlan), left the family, going on to pursue domestic bliss with another man. One of the intriguing perceptions in director-writer Keith Behrman’s overview is that though Franky is clear in his psyche and body that he is heterosexual, he wonders if he’ll turn gay later on in life. Unlike his mother, he has a sense that sexual orientation may be fluid.
Carly is artfully mirrored in the younger character of Jess (a seething Kiandra Madeira). As Ballas’s egoistic girlfriend, her self-image is deeply imprinted as the ideal teenage girl desired by males, which means it’s crucial that she stoke the illusion that her super jock trophy boyfriend is as heterosexually pure as the driven snow, despite the fact that Ballas was actually the perpetrator. Being desirable to males, especially popular ones, validates Jess in her own self-centered eyes.
The same goes for Carly, who still struggles with her rejection by Ray. This makes Franky a further target of females’ psychic abuse. Jess ridicules Franky over what Ballas, regrettably, has yet to come to terms with. Carly projects her homophobic paranoia onto Franky being “like his father”. These first-rate actresses convey not only a homophobic female’s need for heterocentric validation, but her untethered impulse to discriminate against and even punish males who can’t or don’t fill that need.
Perhaps the saddest aspect of Giant Little Ones is that Franky is strong, stable and secure enough in himself to absorb the wrongdoing, forgive it, and move on. No trauma incurred—until the false accusation, of course! Therefore, in not apologizing privately and penitently to Franky, as he should have, Ballas creates a whole new, unnecessary trajectory of inner turmoil for himself and those who love him, including the platonic Franky! What’s especially disconcerting is that the situation could have been ameliorated with humble honesty on the false accuser’s part. His falsehood has also triggered Carly and Jess, among others.
Moreover, in an earlier scene, Franky is the one who comes to the defense of Michael (a vibrant Carson MacCormac), a fellow swimmer harassed by intimidatingly homophobic vitriol. So we see that he has it in his value system, as young as he is, to understand the existential plight of men who desire men, even though he is heterosexual himself. (Might this be the beginning of a paternal protective nature within him?) Indeed, Franky is quite likely, not only to have been forgiving, but he strikes one as the sort of wonderful straight young man who is big enough to let bygones be bygones and continue to have Ballas remain his buddy. It’s been known to happen, by the way. Maybe sad isn’t the right word. Maybe “tragic” is better.
Giant Little Ones
Willow Creek Theatre, 9900 Shelard Pkwy., Plymouth