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 downbeat drama -- which is based on the true story of a man involved in a disappearance and two deaths over the course of 30 years -- tells the tale of a destroyed marriage and two miserable lives. There's some violence and blood related to the murders, as well as ugly fights between the married couple. They kiss and seduce each other and have sex (though there's little nudity). Language is limited to a few uses of "f--k," but there's lots of drinking and drug use, including cigarettes, cocaine, and pot. Teens may be interested to see what stars Ryan Gosling and Kirsten Dunst are up to, but this depressing, flat movie won't cause much of a stir.
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What's the story?
David Marks (Ryan Gosling) is the son of a wealthy property owner (Frank Langella). He marries Katie (Kirsten Dunst), who is outside the family's social circle, and dreams of running a health food store. But eventually he succumbs to his father and goes to work for the family business, which begins a harrowing decline into anxiety and violence. Katie gets pregnant, but David refuses to become a father. They begin fighting and, eventually, living separate lives. Before long, David becomes involved in a disappearance and two mysterious deaths. Will he be made to face the consequences of his life, or will he simply disappear?
Is it any good?
This is director Andrew Jarecki's fictional debut, and unfortunately, it isn't particularly engaging. Jarecki, who gave audiences the brutally powerful dysfunctional family documentary Capturing the Friedmans, now turns his skills to a "based on a true story" feature film -- and interestingly, he takes a documentary-like approach to the material, narrating the tale with Marks' court transcript and filling in the blanks with deduction and imagination.
The material is relentlessly harrowing, and it's difficult to know just where the characters stand: David is shown to be slightly unhinged, and there's no one to root for. Additionally, Jarecki employs some fairly standard-issue thriller elements, such as jump-shocks and things hiding in the shadows, which seem unworthy of this story. It's difficult, ultimately, to discern the point of the movie, other than to comment on how depressing and futile it all is.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the violence in the film. What has more impact: the things that are shown, or the ones that aren't? Which is more disturbing, the murders or the violence toward Katie?
The main characters tend to drown their troubles in drinking, smoking, and drugs. These activities never seem to get out of control, but does that make it all right? What would the consequences of this kind of behavior be in real life?
Could David have avoided all of his trouble if he had ignored his father and kept on living the life he dreamed of living?
- In theaters: December 3, 2010
- On DVD or streaming: March 29, 2011
- Cast: Frank Langella, Kirsten Dunst, Ryan Gosling
- Director: Andrew Jarecki
- Studio: Magnolia Pictures
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 101 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: drug use, violence, language and some sexuality
- Last updated: September 21, 2019
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