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All the President's Men
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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that All the President's Men is a classic drama based on the true story of the reporters who uncovered the Watergate scandal. It has some tense moments, strong language (including "s--t" and "f--k"), smoking, and drinking. Kids may need some historical context in order to understand the story's complex characters and situations, but those who stick with it will take away positive messages about persistence and dedication to the truth.
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What's the story?
In ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN, Bob Woodward (Robert Redford), a junior reporter for the Washington Post, is sent to cover a small-time break-in at the office of the Democratic National Committee (located in the Watergate office building). He works with Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman), another reporter, to find, after tediously painstaking research, that the break-in was part of a complex pattern of corruption in President Nixon's re-election campaign.
Is it any good?
Based on the real-life story of the two reporters who wouldn't give up on the story of the Watergate break-in, this movie is as gripping as any detective novel. Producer/star Redford was so intent on authenticity that he even flew actual garbage from the Washington Post wastepaper baskets out to the set. All the President's Men does a good job of showing how much of the work of the reporters was dull persistence, and it also does a good job of showing us what went in to the decisions of editor Ben Bradlee (Jason Robards, in an Oscar-winning performance) and publisher Katharine Graham about what they needed in terms of proof in order to be able to publish the story.
The movie showcases an interesting range of moral choices and calibrations. The famous "Deep Throat" (Hal Holbrook), still unidentified when the movie was filmed, is someone from the inside who won't allow himself to be identified or even quoted but is willing to confirm what the reporters are able to find elsewhere. Others involved in the scandal, both in the corruption itself and in its cover-up, must decide what to do and how much to disclose. One key development is the decision made by someone identified only as "the bookkeeper" (Jane Alexander) to talk to Bernstein. The participants must also deal with the consequences of their choices. Donald Segretti (Robert Walden) manages to evoke sympathy when what began as juvenile pranks leave him in disgrace. Woodward and Bernstein also make mistakes and must deal with the consequences.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why Woodward and Bernstein are the only reporters in All the President's Men who are interested in the story. Why did they insist on two sources before they would publish anything?
One of the people portrayed in the movie later testified before the Watergate Committee that he had "lost his moral compass." What does that mean? How does something like that happen?
How has technology changed the way that reporters do research and prepare their stories?
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