BFI Flare Review: Jump, Darling

DIRECTED BY

Phil Connell

STARRING

Thomas Duplessie, Cloris Leachman, Linda Kash, Andrew Bushell, Jayne Eastwood, Daniel Jun, Penelope Goranson, Mark Caven, Katie Messina and Kevin Allan

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SYNOPSIS

A rookie drag queen, reeling from a break-up, escapes to the country, where he finds his grandmother in steep decline yet desperate to avoid the local nursing home.

Russell is entering a crossroads in his life as he approaches thirty and wondering whether his plans to become a serious actor will ever formulate, he looks for performance kicks as a drag queen, causing friction with his boyfriend and leads them to breaking up. Russell heads to his grandmothers to crash and learns that she’s becoming more forgetful but is looking to avoid being put into a nursing home.

Jump, Darling is written and directed by Phil Connell, with the story focusing on Russell, who escapes to the country after his recent breakup with his strait-laced businessman boyfriend, who doesn’t approve of him becoming a drag queen. Rather than become the convenient crash pad he had in mind, he learns that his grandmother, Margaret, is becoming more forgetful than she’d like to admit, but is desperate to avoid being put in the local nursing home.

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It’s safe to say when the film openings up with Russell getting ready to hit the stage as ‘Fishy Falters’, he’s not having the best evening as his boyfriend breaks up with him as ‘I can’t watch you do this gay variety shit show anymore’, and quite literally falters upon his entrance as he gets too drunk due to the breakup and falls all over the place. At a crossroads with his life, as he always envisioned at almost being thirty he’d be a serious actor by now, he decides to get out of the city and go to Prince Edward County to crash at his grandmothers. While she’s all too knowing of her current predicament of being more forgetful than usual, she hopes that in opening up about her fears of being sent to the local nursing home by Russell’s mother to him, that his stay for a short period might provide a solution to delay such a move.

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Thomas Duplessie gives a good performance as a drag artist and individual trying to find their place and voice in the world, seeing how lost he feels when alone to how confident and free he feels when he begins performing at the local bar near his grandmothers. In one of her final performances, Cloris Leachman gives a memorable performance as grandmother Margaret, it’s quite an understated performance about someone becoming more frail as time goes on but still delivers some really good one-liners when interacting with Russell. The chemistry between Duplessie and Leachman is what makes the film work, as does Connell’s direction of their scenes together as well as the tender moments when they’re both isolated, with some good editing work from Lev Lewis and some good shots from cinematographer Viktor Cahoj.

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While there’s some good dramatic and comedic moments, particularly Russell’s mother using astrology as a method of belittling her mother and son, the overall story didn’t quite grip me as much I was hoping for overall. While Margaret’s arc works well, Russell’s kind of felt like it takes a backseat come the end and the characterisations of his ex-boyfriend Justin and new flame Zachary feel one-dimensional so I don’t really have any attachment to care for any of the conflicts and resolutions of their relationships.

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VERDICT

Jump, Darling has some good moments with some understated performances from its leads Duplessie and Leachman, it just missed that extra something to make it a good film for me.

★★½