Humiliation and heartbreak send aspiring drag queen Russell (“Fishy Falters”) to the country, where he finds his grandmother, Margaret, in rapid decline. The two soon develop a renewed bond and an alliance against those who aim to separate them, namely Russell’s busybody mother; she’s suspicious of her son’s intentions and hopes to transition Margaret into hospice care. Both members of this unlikely intergenerational duo are running from something—Russell from those who judge him for not fitting in, and Margaret from the ghosts of her past. And in the process, they run toward each other.
Refreshingly, Phil Connell’s Jump, Darling breaks from many of the tropes we’ve come to expect from queer storylines. There are no tearful comings-out, no humiliating confessions, no crimes of hate or passion. Russell keeps his love for drag a secret not because he fears retribution, but because he’s been told, like so many creatives before him, that his passion would never develop into a “real” career, and that he would be better off investing in a more stable option (which, in his case, is acting). “I need to [be able to] respect him,” our protagonist’s ex-boyfriend disparages, referring to what he calls Russell’s “gay variety show shit.”
While Russell struggles to realize his dream, Margaret struggles to remember hers. Her memory, oscillating between debilitatingly foggy and touchingly lucid, creates a thoughtful depiction of dementia—it reminds this reviewer how powerful the stories we tell ourselves can be, even when we have nothing left but those same stories.
The late great Cloris Leachman and newcomer Thomas Duplessie shine as the leads in this story of intergenerational trauma, belonging, and transformation. 90 min.