Jump, Darling is a bittersweet tale of family and finding one’s purpose. It follows Russell, an aspiring actor who works at clubs as a drag queen in Toronto until his boyfriend breaks up with him. In an attempt to get away from his newly single life in the city, he absconds to his grandmother’s house. Initially under the pretence of being there to collect her car, Russell soon begins to connect with Margaret, as well as a waiter from the ‘only gay bar for a 100 miles.’ But this doesn’t add up to much more than tepid sexual tension, the whole romance filler that keeps us from spending time with Margaret, whose mental and physical health are showing signs of deterioration, forcing Russell to stay and look after her, thus saving her from a move to the local nursing home.
The grandson and feisty grandmother is certainly a well-worn trope, but there’s enough energy between the two performers to make it work. When Russell’s mother/Margaret’s daughter arrives, the story picks up as Russell’s personal journey and his grandmother’s worsening state become entwined into a more cohesive whole, allowing for some effective hard-hitting scenes toward the end. Newcomer Thomas Duplessie is decent, if for the most part unlikeable, in a role that asks him to be withdrawn but teetering near the edge, but it’s Cloris Leachman who undeniably steals the show. In her last starring role before her death earlier this year, Leachman imbues Margaret with both a profound sense of loss, the weight of her years etched onto her aging face, as well as, in a testament to the late actor’s skills, a sardonicism that provides a number of laughs. It’s a masterfully understated performance that elevates the film hugely, to the extent that the film is worse off when she’s not onscreen.
On the whole Jump, Darling is an interesting enough family drama that spends too much time wallowing in a mostly unsympathetic character’s journey of self-discovery and not enough time in the presence of an acting great in the twilight of her career. Duplessie’s lip-syncing drag performances are really quite excellent though.
This review was written by Oli Gamble, member of the thatfilmbloguk team, American and Canadian Studies student, and co-host of the thatfilmbloguk podcast.