A KID LIKE JAKE — Review by Susan Granger

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Originating as an Off-Broadway play in which the titular character never appears, this family drama curiously lacks credibility because there’s too little focus on young Jake. Set in Brooklyn, the story revolves around lawyer-turned-stay-at-home mom Alex (Claire Danes) and her therapist husband Greg (Jim Parsons). They’re perplexed and defensive when their four year-old son, Jake (Leo James Davis), expresses a definitive preference for dressing in Disney princess costumes and playing with so-called girls’ toys. Continue reading…

Desperate to transfer Jake from a city elementary school to a private educational institution and seeking scholarship aid, they face one roadblock after another during crucial Admissions interviews.

Fortunately, they’re counseled by an observant friend, Judy (Octavia Spencer), director of the pre-school that Jake currently attends. She suggests that they emphasize Jake’s “gender nonconforming play” in their applications, hinting that it might be a ‘diversity’ ploy, working to their advantage.

Indeed, while shopping for a Halloween costume, Jake asks: “Why can’t I be Rapunzel?”

Although Jake’s best friend, Sanjay (Rhys Bhatia), the son of Alex’s BFF Amal (Priyanka Chopra), accepts him as he is, other kids have begun to bully him, calling Jake “flag,” a mispronunciation of the word “fag.”

Frantic Alex steadfastly refuses to place a label on Jake’s developmental behavior, yet analytical Greg seems ready to recognize his son as transgender. A rupture begins to grow between them. Eventually, the question of nature-vs-nurture is raised.

There’s a somewhat unnecessary subplot in which Greg works with a female patient (Amy Landecker), and Alex’s abrasive mother, Catherine (Ann Dowd), adds to the angst.

Adapted by Daniel Pearle from his own 2013 play, it’s directed by Silas Howard, who has become indelibly identified with the trans community, helming three boundary-shattering episodes of Jill Soloway’s TV series “Transparent.”

According to Octavia Spencer, “There’s a huge community that will benefit from projects like this – and I felt I needed to lend my name and learn from it.”

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “A Kid Like Jake” is a detached 5, veering way off-balance.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.