Preteen girl looking at a cell phone with her parents

Personalized picks at your fingertips

Get the mobile app on iOS and Android

Parents' Guide to

How to Deal

By Nell Minow, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 14+

Even Moore fans may find this hard to deal with.

Movie PG-13 2003 100 minutes
How to Deal Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 14+

Based on 3 parent reviews

age 14+

Fairly decent teen comedy.

Cute movie! I rented this when it first came out and liked it (as a teen). I love Mandy Moore, so I basically watched it for her. Acting wasn't the best but what can you expect from a teen comedy. The movie deals with common coming of age topics like first loves, relationships, divorce, death, friendships and enemies. Halley (Mandy) is a confused teen who believes that love is a waste of time. She can't understand her mother who is seeing a new guy so close after getting divorced, or why her sister wants to get married, or even why her pregnant best friend Scarlett (Alexandra Holden) is in love with her boyfriend Michael. Even Michael's best friend Macon (Trent Ford) can't get Halley to come around. Until Michael suddenly dies, Halley tries to see things differently. When her and Macon finally become a couple, a car accident leaves Halley thinking that she made a mistake falling for him. The film is spot on for issues teens go through during adolescence. Halley has emotional breakdowns. I think she takes life too seriously. Some of the comedy is very silly and cliche like the pot-obessed grandma and the unlikable in-laws dinner scene. Mild violence includes a death of a teen and a car crash. Some sexual content includes kissing, making out on a couch prior to sleeping together, making out on a bed prior to sleeping together, it's implied that the mom sneaks out to go sleep with her new man, a mans g-string is shown after a drunk woman comes home from a wild bachelorette party (party not shown), some flirting, a teen pregnancy, a dog humps a persons leg. Language has an "f" word and some other common words you would hear in a PG-13 film. The grandma is obsessed with pot - she's seen smoking it & mentions it a couple times in glory. Halley tries cigarettes. There is drinking and a drunk character. That is about it! Not recommended for youngsters, the themes are too heavy. 14++ seems fair.
age 15+

Good film/Relatable for teens

I remember watching this movie as a teen and I loved it. It was a nice mix of the books Someone Like You and That Summer by Sarah Dessen. Sure most parents think it isn't appropriate because of the sexual context and alcohol/drug use however if you look into the lives of teens, this is something they come across and face. Not all will but a good portion will feel certain pressures and feel that this movie shows that. For those who haven't seen it here is a film rundown: It is about a girl named Halley whose best friend Scarlett is pregnant. Her friends boyfriend dies and leaves her a soon to be single mom. Halley herself goes through changes, finding love and losing love, having a changing relationship with her mother (Allison Janney's character) and seeing the changes in her friend as she moves through her pregnancy. She has different pressures that affect her life including the relationship with her new boyfriend Macon. She does at the end, realize she has been the same girl all along and is just filling in the colours of her life.

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (3 ):
Kids say (1 ):

Alison Janney and Dylan Baker 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. There's 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.

Movie Details

  • In theaters: July 18, 2003
  • On DVD or streaming: December 9, 2003
  • Cast: Allison Janney , Mandy Moore , Trent Ford
  • Director: Clare Kilner
  • Inclusion Information: Female directors, Female actors
  • Studio: New Line
  • Genre: Drama
  • Run time: 100 minutes
  • MPAA rating: PG-13
  • MPAA explanation: sexual content, drug material, language and some thematic elements
  • Last updated: November 24, 2022

Inclusion information powered by

Did we miss something on diversity?

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.

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate