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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Biopic > Biography > Science > Autism > Cable Telefilm > Temple Grandin (2010/HBO DVD)

Temple Grandin (2010/HBO DVD)


Picture: C+     Sound: B-     Extras: B     Telefilm: B



It has been a while since I have seen a biopic of any kind work.  They usually fall into formulaic pattern of the self-congratulatory and conventions from 1930s sound films, but once in a while, we get something that stands out like Mick Jackson’s Temple Grandin (2010) and the result is so good and satisfying that you are happy you spent the time watching it and would so again.


Claire Danes (Shopgirl, My So-Called Life) gives the best performance of her career yet as real life woman who suffered with Autism before anyone knew what it was and managed to not only overcome it enough to function, but would define it, help describe it, give it a new identity and earn a college doctorate in mechanical design, then take that and create innovative spaces in which to contain and heard cattle.


But the story is also one of her struggles, spirit, intelligence and character.  Her mother (Julia Ormond in yet another great performance like her recent work in The Wronged Man and Soderbergh’s Che, both reviewed elsewhere on this site) is told to put her into an institution, but refuses and decides to do what she can to help her learn better.  She also lucks out by meeting other great people along the way including a former NASA engineer (David Strathairn) and gets top support from her Aunt (Catherine O’Hara) while still facing being stigmatized for her illness as well as facing overt sexism at a time when few women were in the sciences.


Dane’s performance is bold, risk-taking, fearless and painfully honest, but that is what makes it work and co-writers Christopher Monger & Merritt Johnson’s adaptation of Grandin’s co-penned biography books Emergence and Thinking In Pictures can have some minor detours, but all in all, this works out well.  Jackson, whose best work includes the British TV Mini-Series A Very British Coup (reviewed elsewhere on this site) and pilots for the likes of The Practice and Numb3rs, delivers some of the best work of his career to date.  If this had been any more developed, this could have been a theatrical film release, but as it stands, it is still an excellent telefilm that delves into the human condition and gives us a story we can all learn from.



The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image was shot in Super 16mm film and it has a really good look to it throughout, only held back by the limits of the DVD format with softness that is not from the film and saved by its good color and approach by Director of Photography Ivan Strasburg (Numb3rs, Generation Kill).  The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix has more of a soundfield than expected and the Dolby 2.0 Stereo version may not be as clear, but it has vague Pro Logic activity.


Extras include a short behind-the-scenes piece at just over 5 minutes and excellent feature length audio commentary track with Director Jackson, Writer Monger and Dr. Temple Grandin herself explaining the difference between her book, the film and her life, among other things.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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