A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Clear themes of perseverance and courage in the face of personal and professional hardship. The film also focuses on the merits of teamwork when meeting a huge creative goal.
Positive Role Models
Jon Batiste and his partner, Suleika Jaouad, face tremendous hardship when Jaouad's cancer comes back after a decade in remission. They demonstrate perseverance together in working against their fear of Jaouad's health outcomes, and Batiste gives an individual example, too, as he tries to complete his professional goals. Batiste and his musicians also show teamwork as they hash out the inner workings of his symphony to create a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Central subjects Jon Batiste, who's Black, and Suleika Jaouad, who's Tunisian-Swiss, are among the many people of color in the film, including much of the orchestra that Batiste assembles. The images of Black musical professionals have particular significance because the worlds of orchestra and classical musical are still largely lacking in people of color. Batiste's own declaration that the purpose of his symphony is to change how people view who can be in the symphony and what can be deemed classical music is a direct rebuttal to the "traditional" view of who can be lauded in that space.
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Violence & Scariness
Suleika Jaouad is facing a serious, potentially scary, medical diagnosis.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
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"F--k" is seen in a flashing neon sign. The "N" word used in the song "The Story of O.J.," heard in the film. The word "s--t" is said by a woman in the audience.
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Products & Purchases
Promotes Batiste and his work.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Adults drink alcohol.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that American Symphony is a documentary that follows award-winning musician/composer Jon Batiste as he embarks on his biggest project yet: creating a sprawling symphonic piece to reflect multiple facets of American musical history. At the same time, Batiste and his life partner, Suleika Jaouad, must deal with personal challenges when Suleika's cancer, long in remission, comes back. Expect a few scenes with kissing and drinking. Language isn't frequent but includes "s--t," the "N" word (in song lyrics), and "f--k" (in a neon sign). The film has strong messages about endurance, perseverance, and teamwork and offers an important example of a Black artist succeeding in a space that has traditionally had an extraordinarily high entry barrier for people of color. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
American Symphony is an emotional ride and, ultimately, a story of love and support. Batiste must learn how to balance his creative ambitions and successes with his anxieties and worries about Jaouad. What comes next shows viewers how everyone -- famous or not -- must deal with the ebbs and flows of life. No one is immune from what life throws at us, and seeing Batiste battle his anxiety and insomnia, even as he's winning awards and creating masterpieces, is a lesson in how humanity binds us all.
Batiste's fans will appreciate the intimate, close-up account of the year he spent creating his symphony, and music fans of all stripes will love seeing the musical creative process at work. Batiste also gives voice to the African American experience when it comes to facing stereotypes and clichés. He shows how he tries to undermine these, but he addresses his critics (at least somewhat) as well. Everything leads up to an emotional crescendo of music and feeling, making a poignant viewing experience.
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Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
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Our Editors Recommend
Black History on the Screen: Arts, Business & Culture
Movies About Musicians
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