Tag Archives: Claire Danes

A Kid Like Jake

What kind of kid is Jake? Like most kids, Jake is many things, and to his parents, he is everything. But when they say “a kid like Jake,” they mean how Jake is different. How Jake likes to dress up in little girls’ dresses. How Jake’s gender identity is maybe fluid. No one says those exact words, of course, because Jake is still young. Jake is so young that his parents, Alex (Claire Danes) and Greg (Jim Parsons), are in the midst of registering him for school. Not public school, hopefully, which has been deemed unacceptable. So they’re making the rounds, doing interviews and writing application essays – thousands of kids for just a few hundred slots, and Alex and Greg need Jake to get financial aid on top of it.

But how old is old enough to even know something like that? I have one nephew who, as MV5BZjFkZjI4ZGQtODRmNi00MWNmLTllYzAtM2Q2MGYwNzhkYjY0XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMTExNDQ2MTI@._V1_a baby, was always attracted to my baubles. He’d pull on them and gum them as a tot but when he was old enough, he’d steal them and be a very well-accessorized toddler. Another nephew insisted on having his finger nails painted whenever his mother did hers. One little guy had a dolly that he loved to play with. Once, when we brought him to Build-A-Bear, he insisted on our purchasing him a pink stroller for his bear. We obliged of course, and presto, change-o: instant mall hazard, a 3 year old on a complete tear, careening his plastic stroller possibly right into your shins. Does any of this mean anything? Other than that kids aren’t born knowing about gender stereotypes. Most kids will do whatever’s fun, grab whatever’s sparkly, unless of course they’re shamed.

Jake seems to gravitate more toward things traditionally thought of as ‘girly.’ His parents don’t think too much about it, until it’s time to submit applications and they need a hook that will distinguish him from the thousands of other kids. A friend and early childhood educator (Octavia Spencer) suggests that Jake’s gender questioning play might be worth a mention. But when tensions are high, it turns out Jake’s parents are a little less tolerant than previously believed. Not that they’re anything but accepting of their child – it’s toward each other that they harbour resentments, and those babies are coming out!

Truth be told, the subject is treated with kid gloves. It’s sensitive, and they’re so worried about blundering into it head-on, they perhaps fail to graze it fully from the side. No matter. It’s still ripe with interesting questions that are worth considering.

 

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Brigsby Bear

One day the cops show up at James’ house and take away from his parents and his home. He’s surprised he can breathe the air outside their bunker, but that’s the first of many surprises. Turns out he’d been kidnapped as a baby and raised by his captors (Mark Hamill and Jane Adams!) to believe that Brigsby Bear, a TV show that unbeknownst to him was being made by his “father” and seen only by himself, was the culmination of human existence. You haven’t heard obsessed fan theory until you’ve met a man who has never done or seen anything else, ever.

Now that he’s “free” it’s hard to let go of his favourite, most important show ever, and brigsby-bear-images-kate-lyn-sheil-kyle-mooneywhen he learns that it was Mark Hamill making the 700+ episodes all along, his main takeaway is: anyone can make a movie! So why not him? Unfortunately, the cop (Greg Kinnear) isn’t keen to turn over the confiscated equipment, and his therapist (Claire Danes) isn’t keen on the idea, period. But this is the only thing giving a grown man comfort now that he’s out in a world he never knew existed, let alone how to exist in it.

Kyle Mooney plays James, a man who still identifies more with his captors and their cult-like lifestyle than with his biological parents who have spent 25 years looking for him but only a couple of weeks knowing him. This is man’s search for meaning, but no one is comfortable when he finds it in an animatronic bear head. But teaching him history, or how to drive, or what slang to use, isn’t going to be enough. He just doesn’t belong to this world, or to his new family, and that’s a sort of sadness that’s translatable even as it’s played for laughs on screen. It’s kind of neat to be able to see the impact of pop culture on someone who hasn’t been part of it. Brigsby Bear is a true indie film, not just marching to a different beat but spasmodically interpretive-dancing to the synthesized stylings of a keytar. It’s on a slightly different frequency than most movies, but if you feel like joining it there, you’ll find yourself having a surprisingly earnest, often charming, feel good time.

Little Women (1994)

The March sisters. Being 1 of 4 sisters myself, I suppose I should relate more to them, but I do not. I’ve never had a warm or fuzzy feeling for these women, and I do not foresee one suddenly coming on.

In 1994, director Gillian Armstrong decided to cast 3 famous little women, and 1 unknown. I wonder if she just ran out of budget. As Meg March, Trini Alvarado comes from left field and does little to distinguish herself. Pay her no mind. We all know that Meg is not that important. It’s next in line Jo (Winona Ryder) who has set herself up as the head of sisters and all things, the playwright and boss. Little Beth (Claire Danes) is the retiring, sweet one. And of course there’s Amy (Kirsten Dunst), the youngest and the sauciest, always finding trouble to get into, such as bringing limes to school, and falling through the ice.

Winona Ryder, Claire Danes, Kristen Dunst: can you get any more 90s than that lineup? MV5BNWRkOWVjZmMtMGEwOC00NDQzLWIwYWYtNDFkOGFiNTUyMWJjXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMjA5MTIzMjQ@._V1_SY1000_SX678_AL_Susan Sarandon plays their matriarch, ‘Marmee’ – a big name for giving her so very little to do. But this is not a story about mothers, it’s a story about sisters, and no story about sisters can be told without boys, which is why floppy-haired Christian Bale is installed next door, and he’s making some interesting acting choices. He seems to have decided to go with “effeminate Keanu Reeves” for his portrayal of Laurie.

This version is a perfectly acceptable adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s beloved story. So my beef is not so much with the movie, and I dare not say it’s with the novel, but I don’t care much for the story, which feels too precious and sappy to me. Which is the only reason I’m not freaking out about Greta Gerwig and Saoirse Ronan reteaming. They’ve already been hard at work on Gerwig’s version of Little Women, with Ronan as Jo, of course. And Emma Watson and wholesome Meg and Eliza Scalen as boring Beth and Florence Pugh as a surprisingly elderly Amy. Oh, and Timothee Chalamet, of course, as Laurie. And Laura Dern as Marmee, and Meryl Streep as crazy ole Aunt March, so consider my heart irretrievably broken.