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Cross to Bear

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BFI Flare

MOVIE REVIEW
Jump, Darling (2021)

Oscar Wilde once said that no man becomes like his mother, which is his tragedy. But what writer-director Phil Connell’s film presupposes, what if he becomes like his grandmother?

Russell (Thomas Duplessie) is a resting actor who refuses to work more than one shift a week in a Toronto drag bar called Peckers (devastatingly, this is not a real place). On his 31st birthday he receives a card from his grandmother Margaret (Cloris Leachman, in one of her final roles) offering him her car if he comes to Prince Edward Island to collect it. So when his partner Justin (Andrew Bushell) calls him an embarrassment and dumps him, Russell takes his last money and shows up on Margaret’s doorstep. Russell loses little time in writing himself a large check from his grandmother’s checkbook, but a mishap with the car shortly followed by a mishap of Margaret’s means he decides to stay with her a while.

Fortunately Margaret has the movie version of old age that means she’s able to take care of herself just fine, except for momentary slips as the plot requires, none of which cause more than superficial harm. She also has a well-stocked deep freeze, meaning Russell’s caretaking responsibilities make no demands on his time. Shortly he is spending his nights in “the only gay-ish bar in 100 clicks,” working as a drag queen in return for all he can drink. Three or four of these drag routines are shown in their entirety; and while it must be said Mr. Duplessie is very good and Lev Lewis’s editing keeps them interesting, they do go on a bit.

Of course, the routines are a restful change from the main plot, which is whether or not Russell can inveigle himself into Margaret’s good graces enough to secure her money for himself, over the interference of his mother Ene (Linda Kash, criminally underserved). It’s difficult to like a protagonist who spends his time bleeding dry an old woman who loves him. Nothing in the movie contradicts his feeling that his mother and grandmother exist only to serve him. It’s all pretty cruel – not least when we learn the title is a reference to the long-ago suicide of Margaret’s abusive husband. The final sequence is meant as an homage but it’s that of the cannibal dancing around the bonfire. Misogyny with a perfectly contoured face is misogyny all the same. Fortunately Ms. Leachman has two films due to be released later in 2021; if this was the final work of her glorious career, that would be a sin.

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