Temple Grandin
HBO // PG // $26.98 // August 17, 2010
Review by Preston Jones | posted September 30, 2010
M O V I E
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
E - M A I L
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R E V I E W S
Graphical Version
The Movie

From its opening moments, it is clear that Temple Grandin is not a standard cinematic biography. Shattering the fourth wall, employing ingenious visual flourishes and centered on a woman whose very existence is the definition of unconventional, Temple Grandin is also a deftly composed, gorgeously understated look at autism, a complicated neural disorder few understand. Starring Claire Danes as Grandin, director Mick Jackson takes a triumphant, poignant tale and makes it eminently relatable.

Tracing Grandin's life through the '60s and '70s, as she comes of age in an era where autism is treated with life-long institutionalization, the film, which won a staggering seven Emmy awards at this year's ceremony, including honors for Danes' work, Jackson's direction and the prize for outstanding made for television movie, excels at placing viewers inside Grandin's unique perspective.

Jackson, working from a screenplay by Christopher Monger and William Merritt Johnson (adapted from Grandin's books "Emergence" and "Thinking in Pictures"), utilizes a technique employed, to some degree, in Ron Howard's A Beautiful Mind. He makes the abstract subjective, allowing viewers to experience how Grandin's mind works -- she truly does "think in pictures" -- and gain insight, rather than rely upon expository dialogue. It's a wonderfully tactile approach that allows viewers to gain a clear sense of Grandin's appetite for life and knowledge.

For those who may not know about Grandin's considerable accomplishments, the good doctor has revolutionized the way cattle are treated in America. Her work led to the re-design of slaughterhouses and cattle pens, allowing for more humane treatment of the animals. But these achievements did not come easily. Again and again, throughout the film, it's made clear that Grandin did not grow up in an era where difference was much tolerated or understood. Thanks to the determination of her mother, Eustacia (Julia Ormond, who took home an Emmy for her work here), and intuitive mentors like Dr. Carlock (David Strathairn, another Emmy winner), Grandin was allowed to flourish and pursue her life's work.

There's hardly a weak link anywhere in Temple Grandin, but Danes undoubtedly carries the film with her effortless, affecting performance. Without resorting to caricature or overly tic-ridden antics, Danes conveys a flawed but fascinating person whose perception of the world stands at odds with those around her. It's a magnificent piece of acting, one justly celebrated by critics and awards shows. Likewise, Jackson manages to keep the film moving along, without downplaying the emotions inherent in the story. What could've been a treacle-soaked movie-of-the-week plays out like a quiet masterpiece.

Different, but not less: it's a sentiment repeated in Temple Grandin, which also sums up Temple Grandin's life and work beautifully. A unique individual, whose empathy and intelligence changed the way we handle cattle, Grandin's story makes for one of the best films of the year.

The DVD

The Video:

Temple Grandin arrives on DVD with a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. Given the importance of visuals in telling Grandin's story, it's essential that nothing detract from the presentation and befitting a recently created production, that's certainly the case. Vivid, crisp and free from any significant defect, Temple Grandin looks immaculate throughout, consistent with how it looked when it aired on HBO in February 2010.

The Audio:

The English, Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is as sharp and problem-free as the visual presentation. Aiding Jackson's precise images is an immersive, occasionally startling soundtrack that conveys dialogue and sound effects are heard clearly, free from distortion or drop-out. Optional English, French and Spanish subtitles are also included.

The Extras:

The real-life Grandin, director Mick Jackson and co-writer Christopher Monger sit for a commentary track. The trio delve into behind-the-scenes material -- Grandin proudly points out that some of the schematics seen in the film are her actual drawings -- as well as offer up enthused opinions about the finished product. (An endearing Grandin acknowledges her "geek side" coming out about particular scenes more than a few times.) The disc is rounded out by a five minute, 11 second making-of featurette (presented in anamorphic widescreen), which contains interviews with the cast and crew.

Final Thoughts:

From its opening moments, it is clear that Temple Grandin is not a standard cinematic biography. Shattering the fourth wall, employing ingenious visual flourishes and centered on a woman whose very existence is the definition of unconventional, Temple Grandin is also a deftly composed, gorgeously understated look at autism, a complicated neural disorder few understand. Starring Claire Danes as Grandin, director Mick Jackson takes a triumphant, poignant tale and makes it eminently relatable. Different, but not less: it's a sentiment repeated in Temple Grandin, which also sums up Temple Grandin's life and work beautifully. A unique individual, whose empathy and intelligence changed the way we handle cattle, Grandin's story makes for one of the best films of the year. Highly recommended.



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