Home #Hwoodtimes JUMP, DARLING: Swan Song for Cloris Leachman

JUMP, DARLING: Swan Song for Cloris Leachman

By Jim Gilles

(Thomas Duplessie) as Fishy Falters

Los Angeles, CA (The Hollywood Times) 8/14/21 – Looking for something different to view on Sunday, August 15? Outfest 2021 is presenting on August 15, at 7:15 p.m. at the Directors Guild the premier of Jump, Darling (Canada, 2020), a bittersweet comedy which features Cloris Leachman in her swan song performance after a long career. Jump, Darling is the debut feature film by Canadian director Phil Connell. It is the tale of a down-and-out 31-year-old drag queen who flees to the countryside in Picton, Canada, to live alongside his sharp-tongued grandmother who finds herself in a state of decline. The main attraction of this film is the performance of 92-year-old Cloris Leachman as the cantankerous grandmother of Russell. Leachman managed to perform this role shortly before her death in January 2021. The plot will seem familiar, as there are lots of movies about young men who aspire to be actors but end up as drag queens trying to make a comeback. Certainly, this is the case of the major character Russell, played by Thomas Duplessie, who comes from a background in Canadian television and has a physiognomy that reminds one of Ryan Gosling.

Thomas Duplessie & Cloris Leachman in Jump, Darling

Duplessie as Russell has a number of song and dance lip-synching numbers in the film that loudly proclaim his inner feelings, but he seems unable to fathom his own attraction to performing as a female impersonator. The film is carried by the subtlety of Cloris Leachman’s acting skill. She completed two further films before her death earlier this year aged 94. This is her last starring role. She is physically frail but delivers a sardonic one-liner with impeccable comic timing and brings out the poignancy in a spirited, frightened woman whose final wish is to have a good death in her own home.

Russell’s Dalliance with bartender Zacahry

The initial seeds for Jump, Darling were two parallel tracks: Connell’s experience with end-of-life care conversations with his own grandmother and his experience choosing life as an artist.  “Over a period of years, my late grandmother struggled with how to prepare for her ‘decline’ – be it physical or mental,” shares Connell. “It was ‘the’ topic of conversation each time I would visit her. Meanwhile, as I recommitted to filmmaking, I struggled to maintain my resolve – against all the forces and voices – the ones that every artist faces.” What is especially poignant in the film is how we are forced to look into the face of impending death in old age – an experience that some of us know well. There is a difficult reckoning with the ghost of her long-deceased husband on the part of the aged Margaret (Cloris Leachman) and a move toward acceptance on the part of her daughter and Russell’s mother Ene (Linda Kash). The dynamics of that trio seem the stronger part of the script.

Russell’s mother (Linda Kash) confronting Russell’s ex-lover

The other characters seem underdeveloped, as we get lost in the small-town world of Hanna’s Hovel, the only bar in Picton with a somewhat gay crowd. At the opening of the film, Russell leaves his comfortable apartment in Toronto, where he has been living for years with his partner Justin, a Black lawyer. It is not entirely clear why he leaves and he seems conflicted about it. Russell may be trying to figure out his future but there feels less at stake for his character as he dallies with elusive bartender Zacahry (Kwaku Adu-Poku) and brings his drag persona in Hanna’s Hovel to brighten up the local bar. Duplessie as Russell makes a convincing drag artist. There is some of the relish of Tim Curry’s Frank n Furter in his Fishy Falters. The film also features appearances from real life Toronto drag acts Tynomi Banks, Fay Slift and Miss Fiercalicious.

Russell (Thomas Duplessie) in drag

Cloris Leachman won both an Academy Award and a BAFTA Film Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in The Last Picture Show and holds the record of 22 for the most Primetime Emmy acting nominations in history. Jump, Darling was produced by Big Island Productions in Canada and is being distributed in the U.S. by The Film Collaborative. The premiere screening of the film will be the Director’s Guild on Sunday, August 15, at 7:15 pm. It will include a celebrity memorial tribute to Cloris Leachman introduced by Cybill Shepherd, as well as a rare pre-recorded introduction by Cloris Leachman herself. Virtual screening will be available 8/15 through 8/18. For tickets, go to: