A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Affluenza is a drama about college-age people that takes place in a wealthy Long Island enclave right when the country is about to topple into the 2008 financial crash -- and the ensuing recession. The characters have plenty of money but little perspective on life, and soon it seems they may have a lot less money. There are plenty of party scenes, including lots of drinking and even more marijuana use (the main character is a pot dealer), as well as some kissing, sexual references, and partial nudity (toplessness, underwear-clad scenes). Expect frequent swearing (including "f--k" and "s--t") and a fist fight in which two young men brawl on a golf course.
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What's the story?
Aspiring photographer Fisher Miller (Ben Rosenfield) decides to spend the summer with his aunt and uncle in a wealthy Long Island enclave while he tries to transfer into a prestigious college in nearby New York City. His cousin Kate (Nicola Peltz) introduces him to her rich friends, who are happy to discover that Fisher is also a small-time pot dealer who's always ready with a joint. That makes him popular at the group's seemingly nonstop series of parties, but this is no ordinary summer. It's August 2008, and the financial industry that fuels this world is about to buckle under its own excess, threatening everything that Fisher's new friends -- and his uncle, aunt, and cousin -- have ever known.
Is it any good?
AFFLUENZA gets points for ambition. The story it's trying to tell has weight, and the lenses through which it's trying to view a story that's far more expansive than a typical coming-of-age story -- that of a country and its young people colliding head-on with the unshakable realities of a sinking economy -- is important. Nonetheless, the way the film goes about its mission is hackneyed and awkward.
A lackluster plot about an obsessive romance is wedged between far more interesting observations about the young rich and how they fare in a rapidly changing landscape. The kids depicted are a caricature. Even the tragic Dylan (Gregg Sulkin), who in some ways is the sacrificial lamb in all of this, is drawn flimsily. Rosenfield attempts to bring gravitas to his role, which is admirable. But in many ways, Affluenza suffers from its own form of affluenza: too many glam scenes, not enough substance.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Affluenza portrays the wealthy. How do you think having so much money affects the way the young people in this movie view the world? Are their parents any different? What message does that send?
How does the film depict drinking and drug use? Are there any consequences? Are they realistic?
How does Dylan change during the course of the film, as it becomes clear that his comfortable life soon may be less comfortable? Do other people in the movie behave in similar ways when faced with the same situation? What do you think you'd do?
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