By Alistair Lawrence,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
David Bowie documentary has some language, sex, nudity.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Accepting change, challenging yourself creatively, trying to feel empathy and understand other people and cultures. Not being afraid to reinvent yourself. Using art as a form of therapy.
Positive Role Models
Bowie comes across as thoughtful, open-minded, and non-judgmental in archive interview footage. He frequently uses humor to be self-deprecating and disarm those who are skeptical of how he works and lives. He is also honest about his flaws, such as how he prioritizes his work over relationships.
The movie centers around a White British male with very little gender or ethnic diversity. But the subject is keen to learn about artists and musicians from other backgrounds and cultures. Discussion of bisexuality and using non-gendered language. Some discussion of anxiety and other mental health issues. More than one language spoken. International locations.
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Violence & Scariness
Person stands in front of firing squad in archive footage. No death, blood, or gore. Some abstract montage imagery shows skulls, blood, and explosions.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Nudity from the waist up. Discussion of bisexuality. Couple shown in bed together. People shown in bikinis.
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Language used includes "f--k," "s--t," and "bitch." "Jesus" used as an exclamation. The derogatory term "bent" is used about homosexuals.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
People are seen smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol in moderation in archive footage. Cocaine referenced on a T-shirt slogan.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Moonage Daydream is a documentary that uses archive interviews and performances to examine the career of British artist David Bowie, most famous for his music. Bowie talks about his life and work, highlighting a restless creativity that made him constantly challenge himself with new forms, such as painting and acting, evolving as an artist and a person. He discusses how his work dominated his life, sometimes to the extent that it limited his relationships with loved ones. But overall the movie carries positive messages about his life and work. The movie highlights how Bowie challenged traditional thinking about gender (he describes himself as "genderless" at one point) and he is also candid when talking about his mental health, before it was common to do so in public. There is no real violence but some montage footage uses violent imagery. Likewise there is no graphic sex, but brief clips where it is implied as well as male and female topless nudity. Strong language is occasional, with some uses of "f--k" and "s--t." Smoking is more common, particularly in the eras the 1970s and '80s, where it was commonplace on TV interviews.
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What's the Story?
MOONAGE DAYDREAM explores the life and work of David Bowie through archive footage of his interviews and music.
Is It Any Good?
Writer-director Brett Morgen takes a relatively light touch to compiling this look at Bowie's life and work. Moving in more or less chronological order, Moonage Daydream shows the emergence of an iconic artist who describes his career in his own words. By putting Bowie front and center, the documentary avoids the norm of having friends and family provide broader perspectives of a the subject's life and work. This isn't a bad thing in itself, but it means the movie is powered mostly by the spectacle of Bowie's performances and reflections in interviews.
There are glimpses of some of the ups and downs of Bowie's career. Like all great musicians, he had periods where his popularity dipped and he struggled to establish the next phase of his impressive body of work. Among the news clips there are some brief, dissenting voices, but Moonage Daydream seems to find these an awkward fit. It is, understandably, more interested in compiling a lengthy mix of classic and never-before-seen footage, with the co-operation of Bowie's estate. Fans will likely welcome this, but those with a casual interest might be left wanting something more concise and comprehensive.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about David Bowie's life and work as depicted in Moonage Daydream. How much did you know about him before you watched this? Did it make you want to learn more? What made Bowie such an iconic figure?
Talk about the documentary's discussion of mental health and gender. How was Bowie ahead of his time? Do you think artists find it easier to talk about these topics nowadays? Why, or why not?
How was sex portrayed in the film? How did Bowie use it in his art? Parents, talk to your teens about your own values regarding sex and relationships.
Talk about the strong language used. Did it seem necessary or excessive? What did it contribute to the movie?
In what ways did Bowie display curiosity, empathy, and integrity? Why are these such important character strengths?
- In theaters: September 16, 2022
- On DVD or streaming: November 15, 2022
- Cast: David Bowie, Trevor Bolder, Ken Fordham
- Director: Brett Morgen
- Studios: Neon, HBO
- Genre: Documentary
- Topics: Music and Sing-Along
- Character Strengths: Curiosity, Empathy, Integrity
- Run time: 135 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: some sexual images/nudity, brief strong language and smoking
- Last updated: March 30, 2023
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