“A Kid Like Jake” Looks at Raising a Child Without Gender Shame

As the sound of music nuns famously asked, “How do you solve a problem like Maria?” In this film a pair of parents ask: “How do you raise a kid like Jake?” He’s only about four years old, but his teacher (Octavia Spencer) has realized that his gender non-conforming behavior will need considering as his education and growth continue. Jake’s parents (Claire Danes and Jim Parsons) are liberal and open-minded Brooklynites who outwardly show no signs of trouble with Jake’s orientation — until on some level, Danes’ character does. But rather than show parents distinctly struggling with homophobia or transphobia, the film deals with the more subtle problem of not being able to see those closest to you for who they truly are. Danes offers the stressed-out energy she has perfected over the course of her career, while Parsons plays her husband as somewhat more grounded. The lack of distinct conflict in the story makes the plot a bit hard to hold on to, and there’s something a bit odd about Parson’s character (perhaps a choice by the actor himself?). Meanwhile, Spencer plays the wise (and gay) woman who seems to see everything most clearly and attempts to help Danes’ character to reach greater understanding. Mixed with Jake’s burgeoning gender identity issues is a struggle to which many parents can relate — the need to get their child into a school that won’t cost the family a lot of money but isn’t underfunded and overcrowded. Director Silas Howard (Transparent, This is Us) and writer Daniel Pearle (adapting his own play) offer a fairly simple story about an increasingly relevant issue. THE WORD: Depending on their familiarity with the topic, some will find this insightful and valuable; those looking for heated debate may find it humdrum. COMING TO: Theaters

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Jonathan Roche
Tags: movies

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