What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that while this movie was rated R, because of some naked tush, a brief shot of breasts, and a bit of hanky panky, there's little else of concern for teenage viewers. One character attempts suicide by slashing his wrists. Parents should also know that there's no real evidence to back up this movie's plot.
What's the story?
The aged Salieri (F. Murray Abraham) has just attempted suicide in an asylum and wants to confess his mortal sins to a tremulous young priest. Three decades previously, Salieri held an exalted position as the state composer in the Austrian Imperial palace of the 1700s. Into the royal court comes a potential rival in the form of music prodigy named Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Tom Hulce), whose lively melodies, tossed off effortlessly by the 26-year-old, are far superior to Salieri's. But what really sends the older man seething is Mozart's mannerisms; he's a grinning goof with a high-pitched giggle and an adolescent's social skills, and he playfully mocks Salieri's stiff demeanor and formal, uninspired style of musicianship. Salieri embarks on an elaborate campaign to destroy a man-child on whom he believes God has unfairly bestowed creative genius.
Mozart has plenty of weak points; he gambles away his money and carouses with Viennese night life, then works feverishly on operas and symphonies to support his small household. Salieri's insinuations keep Mozart from enjoying a comfortable salary from the Emperor, and he discovers another way to mess with Mozart's head through the composer's troubled relationship with a demanding, disapproving father. All the while Salieri pretends to be Mozart's truest friend, and he's tremendously moved by Mozart's artistic output, even as he ensures his ailing victim won't live past his early 30s.
Is it any good?
While the real Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was not the scruffy and impish "sk8er boi" type depicted here -- and there's no real evidence his jealous rival Salieri engaged in a conspiracy to murder him -- AMADEUS does rock as a morality drama using these real-life figures and their music in an ornate, if lengthy, tale of envy, talent and wicked manipulation. Some music scholars wince at the distorted images of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and lesser-known composer Antonio Salieri perpetuated by this multiple Oscar winner (and the Peter Shaffer play that inspired it). One of the movie's strongest images is an ominous Dr. Doom-masked figure (an agent of Salieri) pushing Mozart over the edge by hiring the struggling composer to write a funeral requiem. It really did happen, but this culprit was actually a notorious fraud who regularly commissioned pieces from down-on-their-luck composers, then passed the work off as his own. And, while Salieri's jealousy of Mozart is well-documented, there's no evidence he deliberately drove the upstart to an untimely grave.
Czech-born director Milos Foreman draws viewers in by having his largely-American cast speak with their own voices in plain English rather than performing a scale of out-of-tune accents and dialects.
Families can talk about...
Parents can talk about how historical movies and TV shows can distort the truth. What sources do you use to learn about history? When do you question the accuracy of a historical tale?
Are there any role models in this story?