A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this movie -- which is based on the landmark play by Lorraine Hansberry -- deals with racism in a very honest, often painful way. Mature topics and themes include abortion and poverty; one African-American character demeans himself by playing into white stereotypes of African-Americans and uses the "N" word, but it's understandable within the context of the story. The central family members don't always agree, but in the end they're all working for a better life. Aside from the complex subject matter, the movie has very little iffy content, making it an excellent choice for watching with older tweens and teens.
What's the story?
A RAISIN IN THE SUN began its life as play by Lorraine Hansberry, written right as the Civil Rights Movement was beginning, about an African-American family living in poverty in Chicago and dreaming of more. The action revolves around a $10,000 life insurance check that Lena Younger (Phylicia Rashad) receives after her husband's death. Lena's son, Walter (Sean Combs), wants to use it to open a liquor store, to earn more money for the family. Lena's daughter, Beneatha (Sanaa Lathan), wants to go to medical school. Caught in between is Walter's wife, Ruth (Audra McDonald), who's pregnant and not sure she can raise a second child in a home that's already tiny and crowded. Lena chooses to use the money to buy a house in a white neighborhood, with the rest going to finance Walter's dream. Even though she asks him to set aside money for Beneatha's education, Walter sinks everything into his store -- only to have it stolen by one of his partners.
Is it any good?
This made-for-TV film was adapted from the play's award-winning 2004 Broadway revival and features most of the same cast in the principal roles -- and the performances are amazing. There's a reason McDonald won the Tony for her role, and the rest of the principal cast members don't miss a step, either. Combs is the weak link, but even he can hold his own. This is a great example of what can happen when really good actors take on truly great writing (even though this is an adaptation, much of the original play's script is in the movie).
The film is beautifully shot and deeply moving. While the subject matter is often uncomfortable and sometimes outright painful, the story remains relevant and rich. As a starting point for talking about the hurt of racism, it's invaluable. But part of what makes it so is that it's such a good piece of work, something that will stand the test of time even when we (hopefully) reach the halcyon days when racism is truly a thing of the past.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how media can be used positively to counteract negative stereotypes. What stereotypes were present in this film? How did the characters fulfill or dispel them? What message did the movie send about stereotypes in the end?
What did you learn as a result of watching this movie?
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