A kid like Jake, a film written by Daniel Pearle and adapted from his play of the same name, is not really about Jake nor even about Kids. Instead, it’s about everything that revolves around Jake – a 4-year-old boy from Park Slope’s Brooklyn who identifies with Cinderella and may be gay or transgender. And this is precisely what makes the movie such a satirical and heartfelt masterpiece.
If satirical and heartfelt don’t sound like an easy fit, imagine Claire Danes (Homeland) as the stay-at-home lawyer mom, Alex, and Jim Parsons (Big Band Theory) as the therapist dad, Greg, and a preschool counselor (Octavia Spencer) who realizes that Jake’s proclivities could be helpful in securing him a place in a posh private kindergarten that prides itself on being very PC, sexually open and ‘woke.’ As she says, “Jake is very special. This is a card we could play.”
Director Silas Howard brilliantly evokes the one-upmanship and political elbowing of an affluent, urban and urbane NY community with its hipster charm, its LGBT-friendly air, its ‘rigidly’ super-liberal values, and its faux laidback vibe. As Alex’s passively aggressive mom goes, Ann Dowd is more than familiar as the willful, manipulative, judgmental but genuinely well-meaning and impassioned grandma.
In a community with all the supposedly right values, Pearle’s dialogue becomes a vivid reminder of just how bitchy, competitive, emotionally ruthless members of such a cloistered world can be to one another. Judgmental about their uncompromisingly non-judgmental values, these are people all of us in the LGBTQ+ world are more than familiar with. A Kid like Jake is primarily about adults like us.