Movie review by
Melissa Camacho, Common Sense Media
Acceptance Movie Poster Image
Movie about college admissions mixes heart, tough issues.
  • NR
  • 2010
  • 90 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Teens learn a lot about accepting themselves and their parents during the course of the movie, but the lessons don't come easily. The kids are pressured by their parents to get accepted into Ivy League colleges; one character compulsively steals and cuts herself in order to cope with the stress. Family dysfunction, divorce, and adult dating are also addressed.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The characters are a flawed bunch. Most of them mean well, but they don't always act accordingly. The majority of the parents pressure their kids to go to prestigious schools, at least initially emphasizing "success" over their children's happiness. And the teens' responses to the stress, while perhaps realistically troubled, aren't the type of thing you'd want a real-life teen to suffer through. It's worth noting that there's not a lot of diversity in the school's student body; one former student is African-American, and a few featured students are Asian.


One teen is shown cutting herself with scissors as a way of coping with her problems; the bloody wounds are visible on her arm. Some mild arguing between adults.


Sexual content ranges from teens making out to adults colleagues having an affair (nothing explicit shown). There are also references to infidelity and some quick mentions of sex clubs and sadomasochism. A student believes a teacher is in love with her.


Frequent references to BlackBerry.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A parent appears to have a substance abuse (alcohol, prescription pills) problem.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that although this heartfelt TV movie about high school seniors dealing with the pressures of the college admissions process is geared toward teens, it has some pretty strong content, including references to sex acts, make-out sessions, alcohol and prescription pill abuse, and compulsive stealing. One teen is even shown cutting herself (with bloody wounds visible) as a way of dealing with her stress and pain; another has inappropriate feelings for her teacher. Many of these heavy issues are discussed within the context of growing up and coping, and some are lightened by humor.

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What's the story?

Based on the popular novel by Susan Coll, ACCEPTANCE follows high school senior Taylor Rockefeller (Mae Whitman) through the tumultuous and stress-filled college admissions process. Talented and eccentric, she has a tough time coping with the pressure that her mother (Joan Cusack) places on her to get into a top-notch university -- and her father’s absence from their family life only adds to her distress. As she strives to impress the dean at her dream school, her friend Maya (Deepti Daryanani) struggles to find a school that will support her passions for swimming and poetry without disappointing her Ivy League-oriented parents. And Taylor's former boyfriend, Harry (Jonathan Keltz), goes into overdrive by doing everything he can to get into Harvard, much to his mom's dismay. It definitely isn’t an easy time, but the teens slowly learn that while getting accepted by their favorite college is important, they must also look for acceptance from other places -- including within themselves.

Is it any good?

Acceptance deftly mixes both comedy and drama in its look at the sometimes-extreme pressures that today’s teenagers face when thinking about and applying to college. Although it places much of the blame for this stress on the teens' mostly well-intentioned parents, it does make the point that teens can become so intent on getting admitted into the "right" school that they mistakenly use the college admissions process as a way of defining their self-worth.

The movie successfully threads together a variety of storylines that illustrate some of the difficulties and anxieties that teens face at this stage in their lives -- including divorce, substance abuse, and self-injury. While some of these themes are heavy, the context in which they appear and the humorous and/or heartfelt way they're handled still makes the movie an entertaining choice for teens old enough to handle it.  

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the destructive behavior shown in the movie. Is it believable? Teens: Has anyone you know done similar things? Do you know where you/they can go for help in those situations?

  • Overall, do the teens in this movie seem realistic to you? What makes them more or less believable than other teen characters in the media?

  • Teens: Do you plan to go to college? If so, what influences (or influenced) your decision when choosing a school? Do you think this movie is a fair representation of what the admissions process is really like?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love quirky characters

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