A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that there is no healthy male-female dynamic anywhere you look in this once-scandalous drama. Husbands drink, smoke, fight, and beat their wives as a regular occurrance. Though nothing explicit is shown, the viewer understands that sex (and rape) have occurred offscreen. Prostitution, suicide by gun, and student-teacher sexual relations come up in dialogue (often in innuendo-heavy terms). There are a couple old-fashioned racial epithets.
What's the story?
A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE came to the screen fresh from a hit two-year run on Broadway, with the whole stage cast transplanted to the screen except for a newcomer, Gone With the Wind icon Vivien Leigh. She plays the pivotal part of Blanche, a fragile leftover of a once-great southern dynasty, who, after the deaths of their parents and the loss of their mansion, makes her way to New Orleans to live with her only sister Stella (Kim Hunter). Stella, nowhere near the southern-belle type Blanche is, has abandoned her high-society pretensions to marry Stanley Kowalski (Marlon Brando), a passionate, but domineering, often drunk, and sometimes even animalistic laborer. Stanley and Blanche both attract and repel each other. Stanley, irritated and perhaps feeling threatened by the changes Blanche brings to his little apartment, suspects there are worse things in the sister's background that she admits, and he's right.
Is it any good?
Some critics say A Streetcar Named Desire has the best-ever acting in a Hollywood movie; it certainly shows why the dynamic young Marlon Brando become a legend. (And that was despite increasing eccentricities, scandals and grotesque career choices.) One can hardly look away while he's on show as the hyper-macho, sometimes-magnetic, sometimes-loathesome Stanley. The acting would need to be the film's strong point, since it's basically setbound (though beautifully photographed in black-and-white) and mostly dialogue, full of quotable epigrams ("Deliberate cruelty is not forgivable") and favorite lines ("Stella!"). For modern-day viewers, especially kids accustomed to more explicit content and less poetic treatment of mental illness/nymphomania (or whatever Blanche, the original drama queen, is afflicted with), the film may take some getting used to, but it still commands attention and respect.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why this movie was considered so racy in its era. Does it stand the test of time? Would it have been more effective if eroticism and language were more explicit?
Is Stanley really such a monster, or is he correct to some extent in unmasking Blanche's lies and delusions?
There is much ado about Blanche's age and the scandal of her being unmarried and over 30. Is this still a stigma?
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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.