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Jane Wants a Boyfriend

Kino // Unrated // August 30, 2016
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Tyler Foster | posted September 9, 2016 | E-mail the Author
It probably sounds like a bad joke, but the only real question that hovers over Jane Wants a Boyfriend, a movie about a young woman with Asperger's (Louisa Krause) who becomes interested in a romantic relationship, is how to parse director William Sullivan or writer Jarret Kerr's emotional sincerity or intent with the project. It's a sweet movie, with the air of sensitivity and understanding when it comes to depicting Jane's social struggles, and yet there's that lingering question of whether or not the movie is actually a sincere attempt to explore her arc, or if it's more for people without Asperger's who may or may not feel good in merely being willing to relate to her struggles.

That said, without being one of those filmmakers, there's no way to answer that question, and I'd hate to think that bringing it up implies that I actually suspect any exploitative reasoning on the part of either of them, or any of the rest of the cast and crew. (For the record, the internet tells me that producer Kerry Magro is autistic, and helped to ensure the movie's sensitivity and authenticity.) It's more that such a thing speaks to the relative lack of complexity in this otherwise enjoyable and occasionally charming movie. It might also just speak to my own personal lack of insight, direct or learned, about the struggles that people with Asperger's face.

The story is put into motion when Jane's parents (Polly Draper and Gregg Edelman) decide to move out of the home where Jane and her sister Bianca (Eliza Dushku) grew up in, and where Jane currently lives. Although Bianca has only just gotten to the point where her acting career can pay the bills, and is preparing for her boyfriend Rob (Amir Arison) to move in with her, her parents are clearly hoping that Jane might be able to move in wiht Bianca, especially given Bianca already inhabits the role of Jane's closest friend, and has gotten Jane a job repairing costumes on the stage version of A Midsummer's Night Dream she's about to appear in. Meanwhile, Jane, who spends her days watching classic romance films on television, becomes interested in spreading her wings when she meets Bianca's friend Jack (Gabriel Ebert), a 30-something guy stuck in dead-end relationships and a potentially go-nowhere job.

Obviously, the primary point of attention is Krause's performance, which is excellent. When Jane becomes overwhelmed or distracted from other concerns, her performance provides a guidelne to help tether the audience to Jane's real concerns. The film follows a fairly straightforward dramatic trajectory through her initial desire to seek out love, Bianca's struggle to accept Jack's desire to date Jane as being honest given her own knowledge of his relationship habits, and the way Bianca's own responsibilities start to drive a wedge between her and Jane, but even though consistency would seem to be in conflict with some of the issues of Asperger's, Krause manages to keep the character from seeming canned, sanitized, like a caricature, or at the mercy of the movie's story. The chemistry she shares with Dushku (who is exceptionally likable here) is also excellent, with a natural and lived-in quality.

Aside from one horrible performance (by the guy playing Bianca's theater director), there aren't any glaring flaws; it's just that lingering question about intent. Even if we assume (and again, I do) that the filmmakers are lovely, well-meaning people, there are minor choices that feel like they make the story more palatable, more crowd-pleasing. Most of them revolve around the degree of Jack's sensitivity toward Jane's condition. It's no wonder that Jack likes Jane, because Jane is. for the most part, a winning and charismatic person, but it feels like the decision to chart his emotional maturity (as satisfying as it may be) in tandem with his decision to try and romance Jane has an air of self-congratulation to it (almost inevitably), and that the movie's repeated articulation of his willingness to accept her flaws is unnecessary. Ebert's performance is charming enough to get the viewer on board -- I can't stress enough that the movie is effectively sweet -- but it feels like there could've been a version that assuaged these lingering questions about what was left off screen without losing the movie's present pleasures.

Jane Wants a Boyfriend has art that does a decent job of visually communicating something about Jane, what with a circle of color around her head, and includes Dushku's familiar face without calling too much attention to it, but even given the omnipresence of twee cutesiness, the art feels kinda clean and stark for such a quiet and sweet movie. The one-disc release comes in an eco-friendly Amaray case, and there is no insert.

The Video and Audio
Presented in 2.39:1 anamorphic widescreen and Dolby Digital 5.1 Jane Wants a Boyfriend looks and sounds like a modern movie on home video. Colors are bright and vivid, detail is excellent for a DVD, and there are no obvious issues with compression because the film has nothing of note to share the disc space with. Sound is mostly characters talking, and even with the occasional outburst, it's generally never more complex than a bit of background ambience like a party or New York City streets and a bit of music to go with the talking. English captions for the deaf and hard of hearing are also included, as is Kino's standard 2.0 audio backup.

The Extras
None, other than an original theatrical trailer -- not even pre-menu autoplay trailers.

Despite my questions about Jane -- which may entirely be baggage I'm bringing to the table -- the movie is recommended.

Please check out my other DVDTalk DVD, Blu-ray and theatrical reviews and/or follow me on Twitter.
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