Tag Archives: Child Prodigies

Jesus Henry Christ (2012)

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Unfairly bashed by critics as self-consciously quirky and “hipster,” “Jesus Henry Christ” is a entertainingly quirky little film, featuring highly intelligent characters who must find their own way towards being happy.

Henry James Herman (Jason Spevack) is an enigma, a brilliant youngster raised by his single mother Patricia (Toni Collette.) Henry has a keenly incisive mind and a photographic memory, but there is one thing he doesn’t know… who his dad, an anonymous sperm donor, is.

Enter dweeby professor Slavkin O’Hara (Michael Sheen), whose latest mistake is putting his 12-year-old daughter Audrey (Samantha Weinstein)’s face on his new book, Made Gay or Born That Way? Audrey, as it turns out, is gay, but she’s not ready to be outed just yet, and Slavkin’s bug-up provokes the merciless taunts of her peers.

Henry decides to locate his father, which leads to a series of sometimes sweet, sometimes sad, sometime revelatory occurrences, which in the long run brings Henry’s makeshift family together.

But first Henry must contend with his skeptical mother and furious half-sister, while Henry’s appearance dredges up old memories in Slavkin, who must come face-to-face with how fractured he and his daughter’s relationship has become.

This film is not a masterpiece. I didn’t like parts of it. For instance, the white character who thinks he’s black and refers to the other characters as “white Devils” was kind of silly. The scene where Henry is bullied for writing an atheistic paper in Catholic school was a little obvious (Will there ever be a movie where the kid is bullied for being Catholic? Probably not.)

The movie I’d compare “Jesus Henry Christ” to is “Amelie.” The dark/cutesy whimsy and off-beat narration tie the two films together, but Jason Spevack’s Henry is simply not as likable as Audrey Tautou’s Amelie Poulain.

I mean, Jason Spevack is fine, but the real discovery here is Samantha Weinstein as Audrey, Slavkin’s defiant adolescent daughter. It’s hard to make a character of a preteen who hates everything and everyone not seem like an entitled brat, but Samantha Weinstein makes you sympathize with Audrey.

There is also a scene where Henry and Audrey go on a carnival ride, and Audrey’s shrieks of fright become joyful screams, that I thought was beautifully done. “Jesus Henry Christ” is an unfairly bashed addition to the genre of offbeat indie movies.

Joshua (2007)

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Holy crap. The kids aren’t all right. The kids aren’t all right at all. And nine-year-old Joshua Cairn (Jacob Kogan) is such a malicious, evil little prick who commits atrocities with such a sense of glee (as gleeful as Joshua’s studiousness and seriousness will allow) that you will not feel anything but hate and loathing for the malignant little tyke by the end. But hey, this movie is pretty good, and for fans of evil-child movies, it’s that much better because “Joshua” maintains a relative sense of realism throughout.

Poor Brad (Sam Rockwell.) No sooner is little newborn Lily out of the hospital than Brad’s wife Abby (Vera Farmiga) starts to mentally deteriorate big-time (Post-partum depression’s a bitch) and child prodigy Joshua starts to act a little… well, homicidal. The family dog, Joshua’s pet hamster, and the class pets at Joshua’s elite private school (an institution that attracts snobs like a cadaver attracts flies) start to meet with fatal accidents, and Brad begins to suspect the worst when the family unite swiftly disintegrates. But could all the mayhem really be being orchestrated by Joshua?

Sam Rockwell is becoming one of my favorite character actors, bringing likability to Joshua’s very flawed dad. Vera Farmiga is a top-notch actress too, but sympathy is in short supply for this shrieking, hysterical woman (I know the horrors of mental illness all too well, but Abby’s out to lunch.) a Netflix user described Kogan’s portrayal of Joshua, the homicidal maniac, as ‘stiff,’ but I actually thought he did a pretty damned good job switching his behavior between that of a wide-eyed schoolboy and a malicious nutcase. This is nothing. Wait until the cretin hits puberty, starts growing hair in strange places. Your problems are going to triple overnight.

As a self-proclaimed fan of every cinematic psychological curiosity under the sun, “Joshua” offered more that enough bizarre insights into human nature. I like how Joshua sets his parents against each other. I love the dynamic of the struggle of power between father and son. Brad’s main concerns are sexual frustration and keeping his family unit from falling to bits. Joshua’s motivations are a little more mysterious. Is destroying his parents his ultimate endgame? Or does he have an even more sinister agenda in mind?

This is the rare movie I wouldn’t mind a sequel to (however,considering the limited release and the child actor’s age progression, the chances are next to nil.) With all the Hollywood hits that get upteen million sequels, here’s sleeper hat feels like it might actually benefit from a sequel and has a nada chance of getting one. Does that seem right? No, not at all, but that’s how the movie industry works. Better get used to it, kid.

“Joshua” achieves it’s goal of being creepy and unnerving, and not just from the initial shock of a small child doing horrible things. There’s definitely a sense of unease at watching the terrible things that happen to the these poor people (except the nine-year-old, may his snotty ass burn in Hell.) It’s a set of disasters that can befall anyone, if a real life Joshua is thrown into the mess, devoid of supernatural or demonic factors. This kind of storytelling is potent and used to good effect here, without the usual crap clichés or plot devices.

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