Director William Sullivan/2015
DVD Release Date: August 23, 2016/Kino Lorber
Kino Lorber’s latest DVD release, Jane Wants a Boyfriend, is a small film with a big heart. It is the story of Jane (Louisa Krause), a 25 year old girl with Autism Spectrum Disorder (who self-identifies as having Asperger’s, despite that being an outdated label) who works at a local New York City theater fixing the costumes. Her older sister, Bianca (Eliza Dushku), is an actress who bar-tends on the side, but who has landed the lead in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the same theater. Bianca is also engaged to Rob (Amir Arison), a journalist, whom she has just moved in with at a nice 2-level apartment in the city. Their parents are selling the house that both girls grew up in and moving to New Jersey, and they want Bianca to take Jane in.
While Bianca is hesitant, wanting to start her life with her future husband and knowing the amount of responsibility caring for Jane entails, she invites Jane to a party at their apartment. There, Jane meets Jack (Gabriel Ebert), a floundering sous chef who longs for bigger things, yet is stuck in an adolescence mind-set. He is known to be quite the womanizer, and so it does not go over well with Bianca when she sees Jack talking to Jane at the party.
Louisa Krause portrays Jane in a way that avoids any particular stereotype that films usually use, in order to portray characters with ASD, and instead shows us a competent and independent character without softening some of the characteristics that go with her condition.
The rest of the film follows Jane for the next week as she communicates her desire to have a boyfriend, and to gain more independence, as she is “not a baby” anymore after turning 25. We see the struggle that she faces to take on more responsibility, despite the reluctance of those who love her but who are stuck themselves trying to control Jane the way they had to when she was a child. Instead of allowing Jane to speak anymore with Jack, Bianca and her friends look for dates for Jane, with disastrous consequences. Despite Jane being the protagonist, we are really watching those around her strive to grow-up, mature, and learn the lessons they long Jane to learn.
While it means well, the film often allows the screenplay to stoop to simple set-ups to express big scenarios for Jane to navigate. Jack’s transition from stunted adolescence to man who is able to take on the type of responsibilities he is reaching for seems a bit too quick to be believable, though you certainly root for him every step of the way. Also, the script doesn’t provide his profession with much depth besides using his abilities to provide a romantic date experience, and to pontificate on the elusive and complex nature of a simple soup.
The real heart of this film lies in the relationship between the two sisters. Eliza Dushku provides a believable portrayal of an older sister with control issues learning to let go when every instinct of hers says not to. She is able to convey the reasonable role she played with a sister on the autism spectrum as they grew up, in the way that she is still trying to deal with Jane now. Louisa Krause portrays Jane in a way that avoids any particular stereotype that films usually use, in order to portray characters with ASD, and instead shows us a competent and independent character without softening some of the characteristics that go with her condition. In one scene where Jane is on a date, we get a sense of the type of sensory overload that might exist for many such individuals.
Bianca, as a character, also embodies the rigid nature of someone who is controlling and is all head knowledge and who lacks the heart to trust her abilities and let her self truly go in order to experience all that life has to offer. Whether it is in her relationship with Rob, or especially in how she approaches the part she has in the play, Bianca doesn’t every enjoy the moment. She is too busy trying to be responsible, or over-analyze each experience. Jane is a good contrast to her sister. Jane has very little impulse regulation and is totally in the moment. She is all heart, even when she needs to learn exhibiting control over her emotions or responses to the things she is experiencing. Both are needed in life, but must in exist in a healthy balance with one another. Maturity is often learning how to come to that balance, yet in Jane Wants a Boyfriend, we see two sisters who lack maturity in one of those areas, and who need the other to learn the balance they lack.
Kino Lorber is releasing this film on DVD and offers 5.1 surround sound, as well as 2.1. Other than a trailer for the film, no other bonus features are being provided. The film is in English.