A Kid Like Jake

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
A Kid Like Jake Movie Poster Image
Talky, underwhelming drama addresses kid gender identity.
  • R
  • 2018
  • 92 minutes

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 10+
Based on 1 review

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Positive messages include the importance of loving and accepting your child unconditionally, finding the right learning environment to meet kids' needs, and working on your marriage to be better partners and co-parents.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Despite their different parenting styles and opinions, Greg and Alex love one another, want to be good parents to Jake; their worries, doubts are intended to make them relatable to viewers. Judy is a concerned, helpful preschool administrator who not only cares about Jake but wants to help Greg and Alex support their child.

Violence

Adults argue, sometimes cruelly. Kids push, get into a fight off-camera. Alex is stressed to the point of endangering her pregnancy. A scene in the hospital and discussions during therapy might be difficult/disturbing for people who've dealt with infertility.

Sex

A married couple kisses and caresses one another, discusses pregnancy, embraces.

Language

Occasional strong language includes a few uses of "f--k" and "f---ing," "s--t," "bulls--t," "damn," "Jesus!," "goddamn," "Chrissakes," "a--hole," "for God's sake," "oh God," "Christ!," and "God forbid." The word "flag," as heard by kids, is clearly meant to signal that a kid called Jake a "f-g."

Consumerism

iPhone, Apple/Mac, lots of Disney movie references (particularly to Cinderella and The Little Mermaid). Amal's son wants to be a Power Ranger for Halloween. Lego, Gristedes supermarket, Toys R Us, etc.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults drink socially/recreationally at dinners out and parties.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that A Kid Like Jake is a drama adapted from a play about a New York City couple dealing with the stress of applying to private school for their 4-year-old, who's gender nonconforming. Starring Claire Danes and Jim Parsons as the parents, the movie features occasional strong language ("f--k," "s--t," "bitch," "a--hole"), several mature conversations about marital and gender issues, social drinking by adults, and some kissing. Several scenes take place during therapy, in which a patient discusses intimate details about her marital demise, infertility, and other mature topics. Adult characters argue, sometimes loudly and cruelly, and kids get into a scuffle off-camera. Danes' character also has a potentially upsetting medical crisis that may upset viewers who've lost a pregnancy. Although the movie deals with a timely issue, its LGBTQ themes are approached strictly from the parental perspective, without focusing on the child in question.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bySighmoan August 6, 2018
Teen, 13 years old Written byJahmai W.A June 29, 2018

What's the story?

A KID LIKE JAKE, based on screenwriter Daniel Pearle's 2013 play of the same name, follows a middle-class New York City couple -- at-home mom Alex Wheeler (Claire Danes) and her therapist husband, Greg (Jim Parsons), as they apply to private schools for their 4-year-old son, Jake (Leo James Davis). While Alex and Greg know that their son loves Disney princess movies and dress-up, as well as other kinds of imaginative play, they (particularly Alex) seem taken aback when preschool director Judy (Octavia Spencer) suggests that they write their parental essay about Jake's gender nonconformity. As Jake begins to act out during school interviews and at home, Alex becomes fixated on the idea that she and Greg should push their son to act in a more conforming manner.

Is it any good?

Danes, Parsons, and Spencer are all critically acclaimed actors, but their performances don't save this film from being overly talky and at times inauthentic-feeling. Considering the title, it's hard to reconcile the fact that A Kid Like Jake focuses so little on Jake and how he interacts with friends, other than to show him wearing princess costumes and briefly playing imaginatively with other kids. Jake is spoken about but never really to. And given that the story is set in New York City, it's also somewhat difficult to believe that a progressive mom like Alex would react so vehemently to questions about Jake's identity and behavior. While there's merit in proposing that, even in New York City, parents struggle to believe or acknowledge that their kids are gender-nonconforming, that aspect of the story might have felt more believable if the movie took place somewhere where there's typically more controversy around LGBTQ tolerance.

Parsons and Danes are both excellent actors, but many of their exchanges feel stilted and unnatural -- in particular, a poignant but horrible conversation between them after a traumatic medical event. More believable is Alex's complicated relationship with her mother, Catherine (Ann Dowd), who gives Alex backhanded compliments and second-guesses her parenting decisions, as well as her choice to give up her career to stay home and raise Jake. The screenplay definitely brings up important issues, but it's a shame that the emphasis seems to be on Jake's acceptance into an elite New York City school, rather than acceptance of Jake, period.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how LGBTQ identity is discussed and portrayed in A Kid Like Jake. What message do you think the movie intends to convey? How does it compare to other movies about and featuring LGBTQ characters?

  • What do you think about how much Disney princesses are referenced in the movie? Do you think liking princesses is tied to gender?

  • Who do you consider to be the role models in the movie? What character strengths do they display?

Movie details

For kids who love dramas

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