Reviews, Reports + Comments

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Review of film: “TEMPLE GRANDIN”

2010, 02-02:

Review of film:  TEMPLE GRANDIN


Mick Jackson


Temple Grandin                  (book "Emergence") and
Margaret Scarciano            (book "Emergence")

Christopher Monger                       (teleplay) and
William Merritt Johnson                 (teleplay)


Claire Danes
Julia Ormond           
Catherine O'Hara
David Strathairn
Melissa Farman
Barry Tubb
Cherami Leigh
Tamara Jolaine
Charles Baker
Gerry Robert Byrne
Blair Bomar
Jordan Strassner
David Born
David Blackwell
Chad McMinn
Richard Dillard
Cassandra L. Small

MPAA Rating:



“Autism gave her a vision.  She gave it a voice.”  [= tagline].
“I’m not like other people.”
“Would you like for me to open the gate?”
“I can see the heat!”
“He points his EARS where he’s looking.”
“I don’t understand people.”
“Let’s watch it on the radio.”
“Spooked is bad.”
“I was different--  but not LESS!”

MY Rating:

8 of 10 stars (based on an advance screening of the 107-minute HBO TV film to be broadcast Saturday 2-6-10).

We can learn to PERSEVERE thanks to Extraordinary people

…  Two of the many medical mysteries nowadays are the sudden huge INCREASES in the prevalence of certain disorders such as ASTHMA & AUTISM…  This film concerns the latter condition, which is a developmental disturbance usually appearing in the first 3 years of life.  It particularly affects the normal evolution in the brain concerning communication and social skills (interactions)...

…  Those suffering from autism might show the condition by repeating body movements, showing unusual attachments to objects, being very distressed if there are even small changes in their “routines”, and can be excessively sensitive in their hearing, sight, touch, taste & smell…

…  Regarding communication, their problems can be numerous:  at times, they might use GESTURES rather than words;  they may have a slow (or non-existent) development and use of language in conversations…

…  Also, there might be an inability to adjust their gaze to view certain objects others are looking at;  they might use a repeating of words or passages (such as from commercials), or even engage in nonsense “rhyming”;  or, they may give inapropos references to themselves (such as saying “you” rather than “I”)…

…  In this film (based on a TRUE story), CLAIRE DANES plays Temple Grandin, a woman who is found to be autistic when, at four years old (in 1951), she has never SPOKEN to anyone, & a doctor predicts “She probably will NEVER speak—”… 

…  Her mother Eustacia (JULIA ORMOND) -- a graduate from a prestigious college -- does not want to “give-up” on Temple:  she keeps trying to get her into some regular SCHOOLING to try to get Temple a “structured” education that might help her develop (which frequently causes her to have to fight with school authorities who are usually uneager to cooperate when someone is so “unusual”)…

…  Little by little, Temple STARTS talking (tho often incorrectly or overly quickly and the like);  she still finds it almost impossible to hug or touch other people physically, however…

…  The story is told with periodic flashbacks.  When the main action begins, Temple has been sent to spend a summer in 1966 with her Aunt Ann (CATHERINE O'HARA) who lives on a ranch in Tucson.  Being from the northeast, it’s a shock for Temple to arrive in such a HOT area, & particularly to be around herds of CATTLE there…

…  We see that Temple has learned to COMMUNICATE with others (tho in an overly loud & periodically “detached” fashion), thanks to regular support by her mother & from a science teacher she used to have named Professor Carlock (DAVID STRATHAIRN), & also with encouragement from her Aunt… 

…  From her statement that, “I’m not like other people.”, it’s clear that Temple understands she’s “different”--  but she keeps PERSEVERING in life (even when it’s difficult or uncomfortable)…

… Temple has an unusual ability to see the world in “PICTURES” rather than words, & that helps her have a fantastic MECHANICAL ability and an understanding of how things “work”.  She also has an unusual affinity with ANIMALS & concern for how they “FEEL”: 

…  She’s amazed at seeing a device used to “enclose” cattle to “CALM” them (before they’re inoculated), & sets about building a similar device for HERSELF, which she calls a “HUGGER” (since she herself is unable to accept hugs from people)…

…  The film does a good job at giving graphic “representations” to us of how Temple’s mind “WORKS”:  it illustrates her having a heightened sense of SOUND (such as water bubbling in a fish tank), & the way she sees “diagrams” of concepts, & how she pictures things “literally” when people use odd-to-her-phrases (like, “we get up with the ROOSTER around here”)… 

… She has trouble with simple things like directly looking at other people & conveying things to them clearly.  Despite such difficulties in “everyday” things like that, she’s able to devise & build a device allowing Aunt Ann’s front gate to be opened by pulling on certain handles (rather than getting out of a vehicle to do it as was the case before her invention)… 

…  Her mother & her aunt would love her to try to go to COLLEGE after her summer in Tucson, but Temple’s attitude is, “I want to STAY in HIGH School!”…  Nevertheless, in 1966, she starts attending Franklin Pierce College since, “I want to learn science...”;  and she does it despite how a number of kids laugh at her and how she behaves…

…  At one point, a flashback shows how Professor Carlock at a boarding-type school (in 1962) saw her special abilities (such as understanding distorted visual perspectives) & eagerly HELPED & encouraged her in life when others were making fun of her & her periodic limitations… 

…  It’s found that Temple has in-effect a “PHOTOGRAPHIC” memory, wherein she can immediately “picture” words on a page she’s seen…

…  Temple is shown growing very attached to horses and other animals…  She happily graduates from school in 1970, & later stages of the film show how she worked to investigate more HUMANE ways of treating cattle for getting them to go thru chemical “dips” & later thru slaughterhouses.  She keeps butting heads with men in the industry who often are cruel because she’s a woman & “different”… 

…  Bit-by-bit, it’s seen that she has a special understanding of animals and their inherent behavior.  In time, she becomes one of top scientists in handling livestock in a compassionate way, & her articles are eagerly PUBLISHED by respected journals in the industry… 

…  By 1975, she earns a MASTERS degree in Science, a phenomenal achievement for someone with autism…  And, she stays in touch with Professor Carlock and her friend Alice (MELISSA FARMAN)…

…  Around 1981, she attends a conference on autism, & astounds the people there when she shows how she had progressed far beyond what people tended to think was possible for someone with her affliction.  She gives them HOPE for their own families & friends who suffer from autism, & that’s what the film does overall: 

…  There is an exceptional performance by Clair (with a fine supporting cast)…

…  The movie not only effectively explains a hardship that is still not well understood, it gives you a feeling of OPTIMISM that others can “learn” from her & from new discoveries, so that real PROGRESS can continue to be made for additional people living under similar difficult circumstances…

[ As an aside:  After my glowing words about this film (which almost “no one else” felt was worth even “seeing” because it was made for TV), I was pleased that it went on to win a bunch of AWARDS, including TV EMMYS (for CLAIRE DANES as Best Lead Actress in a movie & the film as Outstanding Made-for-Television film) & a GOLDEN GLOBE to CLAIRE)… ]

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