How to Deal

  • Review Date: December 8, 2003
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2003

Common Sense Media says

Even Moore fans may find this hard to deal with.
  • Review Date: December 8, 2003
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2003





What parents need to know

Positive messages

A grandmother's drug use is played for laughs.


Car crash. A young character dies suddenly.


Sexual references and situations, including adultery and teen pregnancy.


Some strong language.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Teen drinking and smoking, and marijuana use (portrayed as humorous).

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that the movie has some strong language, and teen smoking and drinking. The grandmother's use of marijuana is portrayed as humorous. Halley's friend and her boyfriend have sex and she becomes pregnant. Halley begins to have sex with her boyfriend, but then stops because she says she does not want to care too much about him. Halley's sister comes home drunk from a bachelorette party with a male stripper's underwear around her neck.

Parents say

Kids say

Not yet rated
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What's the story?

Mandy Moore plays Halley (named for the comet), hurt and angry because her radio-host father has left her mother for a younger woman. She thinks her sister's new engagement to a straight-laced young man as the divorce becomes final and her father announces (on his radio show) his own marriage plans is insensitive. When her best friend's boyfriend dies very suddenly, it seems to Halley that love can never work out well. So she tries to ignore her feelings for Macon (Trent Ford), a guy whose primary appeal seems to be the fact that most of his face is hidden by his bangs.

Is it any good?


Alison Janney (Halley's mother) and Dylan Baker (her new love interest) do their best not to appear to be slumming, but the movie keeps tripping itself up on idiotic developments that are supposed to be comic, like Halley's pot-smoking grandmother (played by 1940's movie star Nina Foch) and the stuffy family of the sister's fiance, and idiotic developments that are supposed to be touching (like a car accident). And it also has the worst costume design of any movie in decades.

HOW TO DEAL is based on two popular books by Sarah Dessen. The books' fans -- and Moore's -- will enjoy the movie. But those not already committed to the star or the books will find the movie hard going, because director Claire Kilner and screenwriter Neena Beeber demonstrate stunning ineptitude in translating written material to the screen. The story, the characters, and the relationships seem to go in completely different directions from scene to scene. Without knowing what's in the books, it is not episodic; it is incoherent. And the dialogue is just painful. Deal me out.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how it can be hard to take emotional risks -- but harder not to.

Movie details

Theatrical release date:July 18, 2003
DVD release date:December 9, 2003
Cast:Allison Janney, Mandy Moore, Trent Ford
Director:Clare Kilner
Studio:New Line
Run time:100 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13
MPAA explanation:sexual content, drug material, language and some thematic elements

This review of How to Deal was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging, great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging, good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging, good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging, okay learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Teen, 14 years old Written byalexis1 April 9, 2008
AGENot rated for age

great movie!

i love this movie!

Adult Written bycriticalmom April 9, 2008

Definitely not for preteens!

Although Mandy Moore enjoyed success on the pop scene a few years back, and may attract younger girls because of this, this is definitely not for them. The coming of age story is about a teenage girl learning how to deal with the ups and downs of life including divorce, a friend's boyfriend's sudden death on a soccer field, teenage pregnancy, parents dating and remarrying, a pot smoking grandmother, a horrific car accident, snobby potential in laws, and the meaning of love. The girl is afraid to let love in her life. A really good looking young man pursues her, but he's kind of a lost soul as well. He brings her to a dope smoking New Year's Eve party and tries to get her to go all the way. The movie jumps all over the place as this teenage soap opera's ending is nearly nonsensical. The saving grace to all of this are the adult actors, particularly Allison Janney, who transcend the movie.

Adult Written byxxpolkaxliemsxx April 9, 2008
AGENot rated for age


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