A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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.
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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?
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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