While a doctor is trying to explain the possible cause of autism to a mother, he insists on seeing her husband instead - because it’s a difficult matter to understand. As though women have brains the size of Sarah Geronimo fans. The mother sits up and replies, “My husband is busy, and I graduated from Harvard. Try me!”
In another scene, when a security guard refuses to allow Temple Grandin, played by Claire Danes, entry into a cattle ranch because it has an all-male policy (you’d have thought this was the 1920’s instead of the 70’s), Temple gets into oversized cowboy suit, rolls all over mud, wears a dusty cowboy hat, then drives through the entrance gate like a tired slouched farm hand with hardly a glance.
When Temple, who is autistic – described by this idiot of a doctor as an “infantile schizophrenic” and puts the mother to task for being cold and probably refused to touch her daughter just when the child needed her most – braves the automatic door of a store, a woman jumps in to help her through. She reasons, “I am autistic.” The woman replies with: “Don’t worry, dear. My child is artistic, and he has this thing with automatic doors as well.” I was laughing out loud.
There is much to inspire us in Temple Grandin’s difficult life. She underlines the fact that, indeed, she is “different, not less!” She doesn’t have the charm of the cinematic Forrest Gump but she lives and breathes the same air we breathe. She is real. And just when you thought that autistic persons are condemned to a life inferior and subservient to the whims of “saner” individuals, think again!
Claire Danes plays the amazing story of an autistic girl who designed the cattle system being used by more than half the cattle ranches in America – a system that allows a more “humane” treatment of cows before they are eventually slaughtered off. And though I am a bit prejudiced against the bigoted Ms. Danes – remember her sound bytes against Manila when she filmed “Brokedown Palace” way back? – there is no denying her excellent work here. Julia Ormond ("The English Patient”) plays her long suffering mother, and David Strathairn is her Science teacher, the one who helped her cultivate a scientific reasoning. Danes, Ormond, and Strathairn won an Emmy for their performances in this spectacular roller coaster biography, directed by Mick Jackson. Catherine O’Hara also got a supporting actress nomination in a mini-series or movie. It received a total of 15 nominations and eventually won 7 of them. Bravo, HBO!
When an autistic person is capable of finishing a degree – Master of Science in Cattle Husbandry (not sure if this was the exact title) – it enjoins the formidable power of the human spirit to overcome whatever odds we face.
I do have a question: Where was Temple’s father during all of her struggles – or moments of exuberance? He was never mentioned, but once.
Claire Danes has been having a “dry spell” the past few years appearing in only 1 movie in 2004 (“Stage Beauty”), two films in 2005, NONE in 2006, three in 2007 (“Evening”, “Stardust”, “The Flock”), one in 2008 (“Me and Orson Welles”), NONE in 2009, and eventually mustered one TV movie for 2010 – “Temple Grandin” with nothing else in the horizon from here on. “Temple Grandin” should boost her dwindling career. And hope that she learns from her bigotry somehow – coz this career stagnation is karma working its way on a talented person. But then who cares about being unemployed when your husband is “cutie patootie” (her description) – Hugh Dancy. I absolutely agree. What a lucky biatch! As far as I can remember, Danes is considered "persona non grata" by the city of Manila.
Is “Temple Grandin” melodramatic? Heck no. It’s funny, in some ways "edge-of-your-seat" due to Temple's antics, but it is also solid entertainment that everyone can learn from and thoroughly enjoy as well.
P.S. And I stand corrected, I meant "Juliette Binoche" - not Julia Ormond. Thanks for the correction, redheaded.