Mandatory Movie Speculation: Did ‘The Little Things’ Albert Sparma Do It?
WARNING: Spoilers for The Little Things
After detective Jim Baxter (Rami Malek) makes a regrettable decision regarding creepy repairman Albert Sparma (Jared Leto), Joe “Deke’ Deacon reiterates The Little Things‘ titular quote. “It’s the little things that are important, Jimmy,” says Deke. “It’s the little things that get you caught.” Unfortunately for The Little Things’ version of Se7en’s Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt, Leto may not be as guilty as Kevin Spacey.
John Lee Hancock’s film follows Deke, a former LAPD detective and current deputy sheriff who, along with a younger detective named Jim, hunts a serial killer in Los Angeles. The killer’s M.O. resembles one from an unsolved murder case that destroyed Deke’s life. Halfway through the film, Deke and Jim find a potential suspect in Albert, a mentally-disturbed true crime enthusiast. All of the evidence against Albert is circumstantial, and before The Little Things can go all “what’s in the box?!” Albert provokes Jim into (accidentally) killing him. The massive question: did Albert Sparma do it? Let’s take a look at “the little things” that may or may not be an indication of Albert’s culpability.
Cover Photo: Warner Bros.
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A Precarious Modus Operandi (s) And Multiple Killers
One of the most ambiguous aspects of The Little Things is the killer’s M.O. The main commonality between the murders Deke investigated in 1985 and the ones the pair investigates in 1990 is that the victims are young, solitary women. That said, the victims in the 85’ murders were all prostitutes while the ones in 90’ are all normal citizens. At the beginning of the film, we are shown an attempted killing but the killer. Shrouded in darkness, all we know/can make out is that the perpetrator, unlike Albert, wears glasses, doesn’t sport a beard, and drives a car (housing a belt and masking tape) which we never see again in the film. The same inconsistencies can be observed in the scene during which another car follows Rhonda Rathbun AKA “the girl with the red barrette” before her disappearance. These scenes point to there being at least two different killers.
The Man, The Myth, The Sparma
Albert is an appliance repairman whose job allows him to pack up and move from city to city. As a self-proclaimed crime buff, he keeps a police scanner, books following serial killers playing cat-and-mouse with detectives, a weird collection of videotapes with women’s names on them (although we never see the footage), and Busch beer in his apartment. Albert also frequents strip clubs and gifts fast-food to prostitutes. Oh, and if all of that didn’t sound unhinged enough, he also gets aroused while looking at crime scene photos.
Circumstantial Little Things
One of the film’s first victims is a young woman who called a repair shop due to a broken fridge. The same type of wire seen at Albert's repair shop is used to tie up one of the victims and a can of Busch beer is found at the crime scene. In addition to being stabbed, the victims (1990) bore strange bite marks and sodium benzoate residue—Albert has false teeth and a photo processing room in his apartment. On top of all of that (and Albert’s car having high mileage and a big trunk), when Deke illegally searches Deke’s apartment he finds newspaper clippings of the murders hidden under the floorboards. Despite this circumstantial evidence, prints and dental records are deemed inconclusive by forensic teams.
Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum
Deke and Jim are two sides of the same coin; the latter’s life mirroring Deke’s before it all went to shit in 1985. Both need Albert to be the killer to satisfy an obsessive urge for closure. They employ multiple off-the-book measures, which brings into question their competence. For example, Deke is haunted by the ghosts of victims he could not avenge and probably sees connections that aren’t necessarily there. Jim becomes so desperate that he just ends up following Albert around, something Mr. Sparma thoroughly enjoys.
Before the events of The Little Things, Albert falsely confessed to murder even though he couldn’t physically have committed it—he likes the attention so much he was willing to go to prison. Therefore, the L.A. Sheriff’s Department view him as an unreliable suspect. This doesn’t stop Deke and Jim from allowing Albert to toy with them. He acts suspicious, leaves false trails, and tells Jim he’ll take him to where Rathburn is buried.
A Man And His Shovel
Albert takes Jim (with Deke not far behind) to a remote location in the desert. After messing with Jim and making him dig in multiple places, Albert says the truth is he’s never murdered anyone and then mocks Jim by saying, “How can you protect those two beautiful daughters of yours when you can’t even protect one of those poor girls or their families? This will go on and on and on, and there’s nothing you can do about it,” prompting Jim to hit him in the head with a shovel, killing Albert. When Deke arrives and sees what has happened, a flashback reveals that Deke accidentally shot one of the surviving victims back in 85—the precinct’s coroner helping him cover it up. Deke tells Jim to bury the body and never speak of it before going to Albert’s apartment and making it look like he took off. A delirious Jim spends this time digging, desperate to find Rathbun’s body and confirm Albert as the killer. Another body is never found.
Bromances And Red Barrettes
After Albert’s murder, The Little Things completely abandons the killer’s identity, focusing instead on Deke and Jim’s culpability. Deke, knowing what guilt can do to someone, buys a red barrette identical to the one worn by Rathbun and sends it to Jim, under the pretense that he found it in Albert’s apartment. This “evidence” Jim the (false) confirmation he needs, relieving him of his guilt. However, this ending posits that the real killer is still out there and that their identity doesn’t matter as long as the characters feel okay about how everything worked out. If the murderous bonding moment above is any indication, Deke feels pretty good about it.
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Albert may have only been guilty of being creepy AF. This is not to say he wasn’t a dangerous individual. However, there are just too many narrative loose ends to say “Albert did it.” The Little Things either has an issue with systematic complicity or is a jumbled commentary on the pitfalls of guilt, obsession, faith, and intuition. The trailers had the right idea, make Denzel the killer because in an era without cell phones and lackluster DNA tech, Albert Sparma is a free, yet very dead, man.
Conclusion: Despite thinking about it (all the time), Albert Sparma didn’t do it
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