A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that although this fable-like indie dramedy doesn't have too much iffy content when it comes to sex (some kissing and implied intimate moments), drinking, or language ("a--hole" is as strong as it gets), it deals with some fairly heavy subject matter -- such as death and dysfunction. One person’s father suffers an infirmity; another has a sick mother in the hospital. The lead character is clearly emotionally stunted and has many fears, but she does overcome them.
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What's the story?
Since the fateful day when Mona Grey’s (Jessica Alba) father collapsed at the outdoor track when she was a little girl, she has relied on magical thinking -- especially as it centers around her favorite subject, math -- to see her through. She counts digits to feel safe, make decisions, and assess people. Then Mona's mother (Sonia Braga) kicks her out of the house so she can live her own life instead of feeling terrible about her dad. Mona ends up getting a job as a teacher at her old school, where she meets students with enormous problems -- as well as a handsome colleague (Chris Messina). Ultimately Mona learns how much her habits are hampering both her growth and her happiness.
Is it any good?
For a movie crowded with dramatic material -- depression, disease, family strife, genius -- AN INVISIBLE SIGN scarcely makes itself felt. It means well but has no energy, no soul. Despite sometimes stunning cinematography that soaks moments in glorious color, it's mostly devoid of life. And Alba tries very hard (sometimes too hard) with the material, but there are some basic flaws. First, who decided that math geniuses have to be dressed in stereotypically nerdy garb? Given how neurotic she is already, why must Mona also eat soap? Is it an attempt to add more quirk, as if quirkiness will magically morph into charm? (It doesn’t.)
The movie has some sort-of heartwarming moments; the way that Mona rescues a young student who reminds her of herself and who’s dealing with much too much sadness for her age nearly connects with the audience. But in the end, the film fails to connect.
Talk to your kids about ...
- In theaters: May 6, 2011
- On DVD or streaming: November 1, 2011
- Cast: Chris Messina, J.K. Simmons, Jessica Alba
- Director: Marilyn Agrelo
- Studio: Ideal Partners
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 96 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: mature thematic material and some disturbing images
- Last updated: September 21, 2019
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