Movies: Temple Grandin
Films about people with mental disorders can often become shallow star vehicles, without much insight or empathy beyond facile homilies. At first glance, HBO's "Temple Grandin" looks like it's following the "Forrest Gump" mold - protagonist does heroic deeds in spite of a handicap:
"Temple Grandin," however, is a biopic about a real, extraordinary person and not fiction. The movie has a more nuanced message because of the source material; Temple Grandin succeeds in life because of her autism, not just in spite of it. As one of the characters says, she's "different, not less."
The film follows Grandin through high school, college, and her career in the cattle industry. Grandin uses her affinity for animals and her meticulously observant mind to design new ways to handle cattle so they're less anxious. PETA types might wince at the strange marriage of science and slaughter, but Grandin's designs have calmed livestock all around the country.
Through it all, Claire Danes manages to capture the mix of brilliance and social awkwardness found in the real Dr. Grandin, who has roundly praised Danes's performance. Along for the ride are the sort of predictable friends and allies in this type of movie - Temple's Anne Sullivan-esque science teacher, her aunt (played with gusto by veteran Catherine O'Hara), and (I'm not making this up) her blind college roommate.
Overall, "Temple Grandin" is a decent movie that's worthy of the silver screen, and certainly better than most of the stuff HBO Films releases. It's almost guaranteed to get Claire Danes an Emmy nod, but in this case, it's well-deserved.