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Every few years, a child actor rises out of the plethora of "cute kids" to
show that he really can act. Elijah Wood did it ten years ago; Haley Joel
Osment is the most recent. In between the two of them was Joseph
In "Gregory K", Levitt plays a child trying to "divorce" his abusive parents in the hopes that a loving family can adopt him. Despite some heavy-handed directing (okay, maybe an eleven-year-old boy would mention adoption that often, but it's annoying in a movie, and could his real parents be any more evil?), Levitt's emotive performance begs us to figure out how we can fix a system so obviously flawed with good intentions.
There was one boy who made a stand and fought for nothing but a place
to be. His unprecedented courage stirred public conscience and paved
the way for children's rights. Rights - unalienable rights, as they are
held self-evident by the Declaration of Independence - that include the
Pursuit of Happinesss for every citizen of the United States - even for
minors. This boy was in the midst of a legal case that altered the
understanding of parental rights and parents' responsibility towards
their children. This boy made it clear that all you need is courage and
steadfastness, which he badly enough gained from years of suffering
and years of neglect; from years of being abandoned and deceived by his
This boy is known as Gregory Kingsley. This is his story.
Gregory Kingsley is played by young Joseph Gordon-Levitt. We are introduced to him as he enters his new home at the so-called "Boys' Ranch", a place for kids who are under the custody of Social Services, not because they have done something wrong, but because they have been let down and abandoned. Gregory's story is told in flashbacks, starting with the relationship to his alcoholic and erratic father Ralph (played by Robert Joy). As soon as Ralph was charged with child neglect and abuse, Gregory moved on to his mom, Rachel (Kathleen York), and his two brothers Zachary and Jeremiah. His relationship with his mother is the central theme in this adaptation of his story. Rachel seems to really love her son, but she has lost his trust and proved unable to cope with three children; she broke her promises regularly, and every time Gregory thought it would work out, she let him down and finally broke his heart when she gave him away into foster care.
Then there is George Russ (Bill Smitrovich), head of a family of eight, who visits the Boys' Ranch and gets caught by Gregory and his sadness. He and his wife meet Gregory, develop sympathy and affection for him and decide to become his foster parents. Gregory pins all his hopes on his new family, and as they grow close to each other, the Russes want to adopt the boy. This is challenged by Rachel, who wants her son back under her custody.
Here the story starts, as the time has come for Gregory to take a stand and to bring his own case before the court to terminate all parental rights, so that he can be adopted. What follows is a major struggle for Gregory, as Rachel tries everything to woo him back to her. It is an exchange of charges and counter-charges, a confrontation of highest emotional tension and strain.
The movie itself lives by the outstanding acting performance of Joseph Gordon-Levitt. He makes this struggle for happiness and a place to be so vivid and authentic that the audience can almost feel where this boy's strength comes from. He has a way of expressing so much disillusion and sadness with so little endeavor, with so marked experience and an effecting sincerity that is smashing in its genuine portrayal of a boy who has been continuously abandoned and neglected by his parents.
The focus of the movie centers around Gregory's conflict and his relationship with his parents; it is shown why and how they forced him to "divorce" them. The other movie dealing with Gregory's story, 'Shattered Family', featuring Tom Guiry as the leading character, deals more with Gregory's new family and how he manages to integrate himself into the Russ clan.
By further comparing the two movies, I would say that 'Shattered Family' is slightly better as a whole, due to a better cast. Richard Crenna as Mr. Russ is much stronger and more credible than Bill Smitrovich here, as is Cyril O'Reilly as Ralph Kingsley. On the other hand I would say that Kathleen York is a better Rachel than Joycelyn O'Brien in 'Shattered Family', mainly due to a stronger mother-son conflict and basically having a more substantial and credible appearance.
A comparison of the two young actors Tom Guiry and Joseph Gordon-Levitt is very difficult. They both have tremendous talent and give outstanding performances in these movies. Both manage to carry the emotional burden with genuine charm and natural skills. Still, if I had to decide, I would say Joseph Gordon-Levitt has done slightly better. He manages to say so much with subtle facial expressions; he seems to have such a strong personality that makes him perfectly fit into the role of Gregory Kingsley.
I give this movie a 9, not because it has such a convincing cast or outstanding visuals. In fact, it has not, save for Gregory's part. I give it a 9 because it manages to emotionally address an issue of profound importance. It is the issue of whether parental rights are unalienable or not. It is the issue of which rights minors are entitled to, the issue if they ought to have the possibility of deciding for themselves where to live, so that they can be happy.
Just as Gregory says, in both movies: "I'm doing this for me so that I can be happy."
This is what he is fighting for but it is also the origin of this movie's dramatic and emotional quality.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Possible spoilers ahead, but only if you've never even heard of the
This story is the perfect example of what is wrong with our child welfare system. IT is NOT always in the best interests of children to be with their "real" parents, and such was the case here. Gregory's parents had abused and neglected him and his two brothers. They selfishly put their own wants ahead of the needs of their children. In short, they only wanted to be parents when they felt like it,and even then, they were lousy at it. When Gregory is placed in the home of a lawyer and his wife and their large family, he comes to know what being in a family SHOULD be like. Desperate to stay in the first loving, stable and safe environment he has ever known, he tries to "divorce" his parents. Naturally, Gregory is accused by his mother's attorney of wanting to be "rich"; that he only wants to live with the Russ' because they have money. What she fails to see, and indeed our system doesn't recognize, is that children are not property and that people don't deserve unlimited opportunities to get their act together when those chances come at the expense of the physical, mental and emotional well being of their children.
A major issue facing social service systems throughout the
U.S. is that of family reunification. "Gregory K." presents a brief glimpse
of the ramifications of that issue. Gregory is the hapless victim of
physical and emotional abuse. He is an abandoned child. He is a "throw away"
child. Still, a blind social services system would have easily perpetuated
those abuses if it had not been for the support and love expressed by a few
Still, the film leaves the viewer wondering about the fate of his brothers. The abandonment of Gregory's brothers illustrates the point. That other children enmeshed in the frustrations and agony of family reunification will never be so fortunate as Gregory.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is a good, somewhat moving drama telling the true story of a pretty amazing little kid. I'm a bit of a fan of Joseph Gordon Levitt from his 3rd Rock days. I thought he was incredible in Mysterious Skin. To me, his character in this movie is not exactly lovable, but he is likable and you do root for him, you do want him to make it. Although Joseph is very good as the lead, I think they could have got someone better. But that said he does fit, and he does carry himself very well in the courtroom scenes later in the movie. He doesn't just come off as a bratty little kid trying to look tough. He had better chemistry with the adults than the other children. He's really annoying at the beginning of the film, when he is all over-needy and cracking lame jokes about hamburgers. I don't think it suited him when he actually acted like a kid, which was weird as he was one! He is his very best in the movie to me, in the scenes where it is just him and an adult, talking serious, one on one. :::2::: In the plot arc, Gregory loves his mum at the start, and she does seem like a nice loving mother, but she was also a stupid lazy drunk idiot! She couldn't hardly do anything for herself, let alone her kids. She eventually does do something right and gives them up for adoption. She gets them back a while later and then-(get this)uh-oh! Coo-coo lady flips out and can't cope again! Gregory, or Shawn,(whatever) is understandably mad at his mother at this point. She says to him as he is taken away again that she loves him, not to worry, it's all gonna be okay, etc. But all she is, is a useless liar who can't do anything right. It's a vicious cycle. :::3::: I thought Kathleen York was great in her role as Gregory's mother. You do feel sorry for her character, and the way she plays it is very sympathetic, but also very weak willed and very hopeless as a mother. She's not abusive to her kids, but so what, neglect can be a form of abuse too. Everyone gives her so many chances, and so much time that I felt she just didn't deserve, or was even worth. She was so good at playing up to her pitifulness and making people feel sorry for her. :::4::: When I saw this film it was called Switching Parents, I guess that was perhaps because people here probably have no idea who the real Gregory was. I know the relationship between a mother and child is a sacred and very special one, but sometimes, in a bad situation like the one in this movie, it can warp into something real ugly and bad for everyone involved. And sometimes it is for the best for the child to get out of a bad situation. Most kids in bad homes don't get to do that. Gregory was very lucky. Yes, you can really love your mother, but you can really hate her too... :::5::: I don't know if you as the viewer are supposed to be a little torn over who it is right for Greg to live with. It's pretty obvious who you should root for, but I think the option is there to view it that way if you want to. :::6::: I found Robert Joy to be most amusing as Gregory's natural father. What a clown! He was such a nasty loudmouthed ridiculous little man. The character seemed a little simple-minded to me. I found him to be unintentionally funny in a lot of his scenes. Like one where he is ranting in court, and another where he's screaming down the phone at Mr Russ. To me, this humorousness is really brought home in a scene where he is talking to the press about (among other things) how he didn't even get a thank you note for sending birthday money! He did have his little moments of sincerity, like when he signs adoption papers, but then later on he changes his stupid mind. He didn't seem able to make up his mind about anything either. :::7::: I thought both the foster parents were very good performances. Bill Smitrovich had a good chemistry with Levitt. I really liked Kristin Griffith as his wife. I thought she had a warm and loving presence to her. I liked the way she feels sympathetic towards Gregory's mother in the court scene. :::8::: For me the movie's most emotionally stirring moment is when a very unhappy Gregory is forced to visit his mother. As she tries to reach out and connect with him, but he completely freezes her out, he has completely closed his heart to her. I really feel sorry for her during the scene, but at the same time I understand why he is being so cold. It's very moving, the music, the way she's touching his face, trying to make eye contact, but he won't even look at her. It's heartbreaking to see... :::9::: Marcia Bennet has a tiny bit part right at the beginning. Love her. Seen her in some pretty amazing roles further down the line. I bother with this movie because it's a good, slightly edgy drama that has it's moments, and has an uplifting ending. Watch it, you may like it.
This story, the way it was portrayed here, gave me a different impression of Gregory than the other reviewers, I am afraid. I watched this movie today on True movies, and I found I had little sympathy for Gregory's character. He seemed cold, and didn't care what happened to his brothers. The other reviewers say he was "torn" between his foster parents and his biological mother, but he did not seem at all "torn" to me. I did find it disturbing that he was so cold towards his mother, I know she was dragging him up, and she put him into foster care, but for him to stop loving her?? She gave birth to him for God's sake!! Sorry, but he came over as a real brat, not particularly likable, not to me. I know there are a lot of children out there who are better off out of the care of their natural parents, and that "biological" does not always mean best, but to lose ALL feeling for you're mother? I think he came across worst when he said he didn't care about his brothers, they were going to stay with his mother, if she was so bad how come he didn't care they would have to stay with her? Maybe I am wrong, may well be the real Gregory is not like this, but in this movie he seemed cold and selfish. It's all me, me, me. That's how he came across to me.
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