We need more directors willing to take risks with films like Get Out.
These days, there are a fair amount of films and TV shows that depict the difficulties of people who cope with the sometimes isolating aspects of autism, especially when it comes to romantic relationships. “Rain Man” might have started the trickle of such often hyper-smart yet socially challenged characters into mainstream entertainment, but sitcoms such as “The Big Bang Theory” (whose star Jim Parsons supports fan theories that his Sheldon has Asperger’s, a form of autism) and “Silicon Valley” (cast member T.J. Miller has described it as an “Asperger’s ‘Entourage’ “) as well as movies including “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” and “The Social Network” have carried on the trend with some regularity.
Into the fray arrives “Jane Wants a Boyfriend,” a sweetly-intentioned though somewhat awkwardly structured spin on a Hallmark Channel-style dramedy that strives to shed light on the disorder from a female perspective. It is clearly filled with good intentions, with a script inspired by real-life events and a reliance on rehearsals for a theatrical production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” to add thematic texture.
Producer Kerry Magro, who has autism, was called upon to ensure there would be an honest portrayal of Jane as she struggles with matters of the heart. Happily, Louisa Krause (who had supporting roles in “Young Adult” and “Martha Marcy May Marlene”) strikes a satisfying balance as Jane by being both winsomely free-spirited and wildly creative but also prone to explosive meltdowns and an inability to focus on detailed tasks while under pressure. Whether she is naughtily downing a margarita for the first time or miming the dialogue to the cult ‘50s crime-noir “Kansas City Confidential” (everything she knows about love, we are told, comes from old movies), Krause—who is reminiscent of a young Catherine O’Hara—is a pleasure to observe even during Jane’s more difficult moments.
Alas, any stereotyping to be had is found on the other side of this tale of two sisters. As Bianca, a waitress turned legit actress after landing the plum role of Titania—the Bard’s queen of the fairies who is besotted with donkey-headed Bottom (played by “Jane” screenwriter Jarret Kerr)—Eliza Dushku can’t help but initially command our attention. After all, this breakout alum of the Joss Whedon academy of cult TV hits (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Angel” and “Dollhouse”) is not only as striking as ever, but also is one of the few recognizable faces onscreen.