Temple Grandin (film)

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Temple Grandin
Templegrandin.jpg
Distributed byHBO Films
Directed byMick Jackson
Produced byScott Ferguson
Emily Gerson Saines
Screenplay byChristopher Monger
Merritt Johnson
Based onEmergence 
by Temple Grandin
Margaret Scariano
Thinking in Pictures 
by Temple Grandin
StarringClaire Danes
Catherine O'Hara
Julia Ormond
David Strathairn
Music byAlex Wurman
Editing byLeo Trombetta
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Original channelHBO
Release dateFebruary 6, 2010 (2010-02-06)
 
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Temple Grandin
Templegrandin.jpg
Distributed byHBO Films
Directed byMick Jackson
Produced byScott Ferguson
Emily Gerson Saines
Screenplay byChristopher Monger
Merritt Johnson
Based onEmergence 
by Temple Grandin
Margaret Scariano
Thinking in Pictures 
by Temple Grandin
StarringClaire Danes
Catherine O'Hara
Julia Ormond
David Strathairn
Music byAlex Wurman
Editing byLeo Trombetta
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Original channelHBO
Release dateFebruary 6, 2010 (2010-02-06)

Temple Grandin is a 2010 biopic directed by Mick Jackson and starring Claire Danes as Temple Grandin, an autistic woman who revolutionized practices for the humane handling of livestock on cattle ranches and slaughterhouses.

Plot[edit]

The film opens with Temple visiting her aunt for the summer and working on her ranch. She becomes interested in a squeeze chute, a device that hugs the cows to "gentle them". One day, while having a panic attack, Temple places herself in the device and it helps her to regain control of herself.

When Temple first attended college, she was very nervous about living in a college dorm. Temple had another panic attack in her room, but her mother gave her space by closing the door. Immediately after, her mother had a flashback to when Temple was little and had relentless tantrums. Before that, Temple was diagnosed with classic autism, a severe case of autism in which she seemed aloof, lacked eye contact, had no language, and avoided human affection and touch.

At the time, autism was classified by the psychological community as a form of schizophrenia, and blame was laid upon mothers as the cause for the disorder. It was claimed that the mothers were cold and aloof toward their child. This led to the term "refrigerator mothers".

Temple's diagnostician suggested placing Temple in an institution. Temple's mother refused to listen to the diagnostician and helped Temple adapt to the everyday world. Her mother hired a speech therapist, who worked one-on-one with Temple and enabled her to acquire language.

During Temple's college years, she conceptualized the squeeze machine, which was designed for herself because she had a sensory processing disorder and disliked physical affection by people. The machine hugs both sides of the occupant to calm her down, as the occupant controls the pressure at the same time avoiding physical contact with another human. The outcome is relaxation in situations marked by extreme tension.

Even though the machine worked, the school forced Temple to remove it. (The squeeze machine bears a faint resemblance to a sexual device, the St. Andrew's Cross.) Later after spring break ended, Temple and her aunt came back to school to persuade the school to let her use the device. Temple later proved through rigorous scientific study that the machine was only a calming device and, as a result, she was allowed to keep it. She has used this machine for self-treatment ever since.

Later on, the movie flashes back to when Temple was just being admitted to Hampshire Country School (HCS). She had just been expelled from her previous high school because when a child taunted her, she hit him with a book. At HCS, she met a supportive teacher, Dr. Carlock, who encouraged her to go further into science as a career and eventually to attend college.

Temple indeed graduated from college and found employment on a ranch. She rebuilt a new dip, and altered a slaughterhouse for cows so that it was much more humane.

The conclusion of the film depicts an autism fair convention, which Temple and her mother attend. Temple speaks out from the crowd and tells the audience how she overcame her difficulties and succeeded academically. Temple also describes how her mother helped her learn to cope with the everyday world. The audience becomes so fascinated that they ask Temple to speak from the podium.

Cast and characters[edit]

Development[edit]

The idea for a biopic of Grandin originated with its executive producer Emily Gerson Saines, a successful talent agent and a co-founder of the nonprofit Autism Coalition for Research and Education (now part of Autism Speaks). In the mid-1990s, Gerson Saines was a vice-president at the William Morris Agency when her 2-year-old son was diagnosed with autism. She learned about Grandin soon afterward, when her mother told her about seeing Grandin's book Thinking in Pictures in a bookstore and, around the same time, her grandmother independently sent her an article about Grandin by Oliver Sacks.[1][2]

Reading about Grandin renewed Gerson Saines' "energy, motivation and spirit" in coping with her son's condition. "Temple's story brought me hope and (her mother)'s story gave me direction and purpose," Gerson Saines said in a later interview. "Parents of a child with autism everywhere need to hear it, functionally and spiritually. I knew this story had to be told and given my access as a talent representative in the entertainment industry, I felt it was my responsibility to make that happen." Through Grandin's agent, Gerson Saines asked to meet Grandin for lunch. "She came in wearing her cowgirl shirt—-in her very Temple way, in her very Temple walk. I realized that there were people staring at her, and in a different lifetime I might have been one of them, but all I could think of was, 'I can't believe how lucky I am to be here. This woman's my hero.'"[1][2]

Grandin was familiar with Gerson Saines' work with the Autism Coalition and granted her permission to make the film, but the endeavor—first launched in the late 1990s—would take more than ten years to come to fruition.[1][3] Variety reported in 2002 that David O. Russell was attached to direct the film from a screenplay by Merritt Johnson (adapting from Grandin's memoirs Emergence and Thinking in Pictures).[4] Russell later dropped out and was replaced by Moises Kaufman, who also left the project. By 2008, director Mick Jackson had taken the helm and Claire Danes was in negotiations to star as Grandin. Johnson's script had been replaced by one from Christopher Monger (both Johnson and Monger are credited as writers of the finished film).[1][5]

One element Gerson Saines was sure about from the beginning was that she wanted to work with HBO, in part because of her longstanding relationship with the network through her work as an agent. "But I also knew that by going that route, more people will see it," she said. "When you're trying to make a movie like this, it's very rare that it reaches a wide audience." HBO was equally intrigued by the story, and Gerson Saines credits past and present HBO executives with keeping the project alive until it could be properly realized. "I made a commitment to Temple that I was going to make it and make it right...I never pushed to get it made until now, because now we got it right."[1][5]

Jackson knew early on that Danes was his first choice to portray Grandin, believing that Danes' seriousness and dedication would help her to capture Grandin's mercurial mental and emotional shifts without veering the film into disease-of-the-week melodrama. Danes herself was coming off a string of more lightweight roles (whose "primary job and experience [was] to become gaga over a man," she described) and eager to take on a more demanding part. Although she was only vaguely aware of Grandin at the time, Danes dove into research, including watching documentaries about Grandin and studying Grandin's books and recordings. "It was really daunting, because she's alive and has a great eye for detail," Danes said. The two women spent about six hours together in Danes' apartment, ending with a hug from Grandin ("For her, that's not easy," Danes observed), which Danes was glad to take as validation that Grandin approved of her for the role.[6]

Production[edit]

Temple Grandin began shooting in October 2008 at Austin Studios in Austin, Texas.[3][7] The film was noted for filming in Texas at a time when TV and film production had grown scarce in the state, and legislators were seeking to expand financial incentives to draw more film crews. Grandin producer Scott Ferguson said that Arizona, New Mexico and Canada had all been considered before producers had chosen Texas, in part because different areas of the state could be used to represent the rural West and New England. Ferguson also credited the abundance of trained film crews in the Austin and Dallas regions as a significant benefit to shooting in the area.[8]

Gerson Saines brought Grandin to observe the last day of shooting, which was a scene involving a cattle dip tank that Grandin had designed.[1][6] Although Grandin said that she tried to stay away from Danes to avoid impinging on her performance, she was quite concerned about the proper construction of the tank and about the breed of cattle being used in the scene. "I thought, we can't have a silly thing like that City Slickers movie, where they had Holstein cattle out there," Grandin said. "If you know anything about cattle, you'd know that was stupid." She said watching Danes on the monitors was "like going back in a weird time machine to the '60s."[6]

Release[edit]

Promotion[edit]

The film was previewed on January 27 at the Gene Siskel Film Center, in a screening attended by Grandin.[9] A trailer was previewed for critics during their winter press tour on January 14; critics responded positively to "the film's bright palette and inventive direction."[10]

HBO and bookstore chain Barnes & Noble partnered to promote both the film and Grandin's books, displaying information about autism and the film in all Barnes & Noble stores and creating a free downloadable coloring book about Grandin, using illustrations by autistic artists. Grandin appeared for a special book signing, discussion and preview of the film at a Manhattan Barnes & Noble on January 25.[11]

Reception[edit]

Upon its February 6, 2010 debut, Temple Grandin received positive reviews from critics, including a Metacritic score of 84/100 (averaged from 19 critical reviews).[12] Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a 100% approval rating, based on 6 reviews.[13]

Entertainment Weekly's Jennifer Armstrong wrote, "The beauty of [the film] is that it makes the title character's autism — and the unique insight it gave her into livestock psychology — relatable to anyone with a heart, and fascinating to anyone with a brain. The fact that it does so with such a singular story only makes the movie that much greater."[14] Alessandra Stanley of The New York Times called it "a made for-television biopic that avoids the mawkish clichés of the genre without draining the narrative of color and feeling. Ms. Danes is completely at ease in her subject's lumbering gait and unmodulated voice. She makes Temple’s anxiety as immediate and contagious as her rarer bursts of merriment... And as the character ages and learns more social graces, Ms. Danes seamlessly captures Temple's progress."[15]

Robert Bianco of USA Today wrote that unlike many other HBO productions, "Temple is an incredibly joyous and often humorous film." While praising the direction and the strong supporting cast of Catherine O'Hara, David Strathairn, and Julia Ormond, Bianco declared that "as good as everything is around them, Temple Grandin belongs to two women: the real Temple, who appears to be a spectacular human being, and Danes, who is clearly a spectacular actor."[16] The AV Club's Noel Murray, himself the father of an autistic son, wrote that "some of the movie's aesthetic choices border on the cliché. The pulsing minimalism of Alex Wurman's score has become as much a shorthand for 'intellectual mystery' as Arabic wailing has for 'Danger! Terrorists!,' and Temple Grandin's illustrative animated sequences run a little too close to A Beautiful Mind for my taste." However, Murray gave the film an A-, in part for Danes' success in portraying Grandin as a full-fledged personality instead of "a checklist of symptoms gleaned from a medical journal."[17]

NPR's David Bianculli unambiguously named the film "the best tele-movie of the past several years... I can't praise this movie highly enough. It's not maudlin or sentimental, but it is excitingly inspirational. It scores big emotional points with very small touches, the sound of a heartbeat, a tentative touch, a victorious smile. The acting, writing, directing, production values, every sight and every sound in HBO's Temple Grandin is perfect."[18]

Accolades[edit]

Primetime Emmy Awards[edit]

CategoryNomineeOutcome
Outstanding Made for Television MovieEmily Gerson Saines
Gil Bellows
Anthony Edwards
Dante Di Loreto
Paul Lister
Alison Owen
Scott Ferguson
Won
Outstanding Directing for a Miniseries, Movie or a Dramatic SpecialMick JacksonWon
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a MovieClaire DanesWon
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a MovieDavid StrathairnWon
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a MovieCatherine O'HaraNominated
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a MovieJulia OrmondWon
Outstanding Writing for a Miniseries, Movie or a Dramatic SpecialChristopher Monger, William Merritt JohnsonNominated

Creative Arts Emmy Awards[edit]

CategoryNomineeOutcome
Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing for a Miniseries, Movie
or a Special
Leo TrombettaWon
Outstanding Music Composition for a Miniseries, Movie
or a Special (Original Dramatic Score)
Alex WurmanWon
Outstanding Art Direction for a Miniseries, Movie or a SpecialRichard Hoover, Meghan C. Rogers,
Gabriella Villarreal, SDSA
Nominated
Outstanding Casting for a Miniseries, Movie or a SpecialDavid Rubin, Richard Hicks, Beth SepkoNominated
Outstanding Hairstyling for a Miniseries or a MovieGeorgie Sheffer, Charles YuskoNominated
Outstanding Main Title DesignMichael Riley, Zee Nederlander, Dru Nget,
Bob Swensen
Nominated
Outstanding Makeup for a Miniseries or a Movie (Non-Prosthetic)Tarra Day, Meredith JohnsNominated
Outstanding Sound Editing for a Miniseries, Movie or a SpecialBryan Bowen, Vanessa LaPato, Paul Curtis,
Petra Bach, Bruce Tannis, Ellen Segal,
David Lee, Hilda Hodges
Nominated

Golden Globe Awards[edit]

CategoryNomineeOutcome
Best Miniseries or Television FilmNominated
Best Actress – Miniseries or Television FilmClaire DanesWon
Best Supporting Actor – Series, Miniseries or Television FilmDavid StrathairnNominated

Screen Actors Guild Awards[edit]

CategoryNomineeOutcome
Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Miniseries or Television MovieClaire DanesWon
Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Miniseries or Television MovieCatherine O'HaraNominated
Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Miniseries or Television MovieJulia OrmondNominated

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f LaScale, Marisa. "Emily Gerson Saines of Larchmont mixes her career and her life's work for her new HBO film." Westchester Magazine, 22 January 2010.
  2. ^ a b "Emily Gerson Saines: 'I Live With Autism 24/7.'" Celebrity Baby Scoop, 2010-02-05.
  3. ^ a b Austin Screens: Film News. AustinChronicle.com. Retrieved on 2011-01-04.
  4. ^ Animal magnetism at HBO.(Brief Article) – Daily Variety | HighBeam Research – FREE trial. Accessmylibrary.com (2002-03-13). Retrieved on 2011-01-04.
  5. ^ a b [1][dead link]
  6. ^ a b c Lyman, Rick. "No More Crushes; This Is Serious." The New York Times, 29 January 2010.
  7. ^ Print an Article. Austin Chronicle (2008-12-26). Retrieved on 2011-01-04.
  8. ^ [2][dead link]
  9. ^ suntimes. suntimes. Retrieved on 2011-01-04.
  10. ^ [3][dead link]
  11. ^ 'Temple Grandin': View a trailer from the upcoming film | Drovers.com – Industry News. Drovers.com (2010-01-18). Retrieved on 2011-01-04.
  12. ^ Metacritic.com. "Temple Grandin."
  13. ^ Temple Grandin. Rotten Tomatoes. Flixter. Retrieved 5 July 2012.
  14. ^ Armstrong, Jennifer. "Temple Grandin." Entertainment Weekly, 27 January 2010.
  15. ^ Stanley, Alessandra. "Peering Into a Mind That's 'Different, but Not Less'." The New York Times, 4 February 2010.
  16. ^ Bianco, Robert. "Claire Danes grand in HBO's 'Temple Grandin' biopic." USA Today, 7 February 2010.
  17. ^ Murray, Noel. "Temple Grandin." The AV Club, 6 February 2010.
  18. ^ Bianculli, David. Temple Grandin: The Woman Who Talks to Animals NPR, 5 February 2010.

External links[edit]