A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Are You Here centers on the friendship between two not-so-emotionally healthy guys (Owen Wilson and Zach Galifianakis) who've known each other since childhood. One is immature, constantly stoned, and quick to pursue every woman he sees, while the other is mentally ill and reluctant to address his condition with real treatment. Their friendship is challenged when one inherits a substantial amount of money and it's not clear he can handle his newfound wealth. Expect plenty of marijuana use and drinking, as well as frequent swearing (everything from "f--k" and "s--t" to "bitch" and "a--hole"). Some scenes include nude women, and one long sequence includes a naked man seen from behind. There's also some kissing and suggestions of impending sexual activity.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Ben (Zach Galifianakis) and Steve (Owen Wilson) have been friends since they were little kids, and now that they're adults, the mostly functional (though emotionally stunted) Steve spends a good portion of his time and energy caring for Ben, who's clearly suffering from mental illness but refuses to be treated for it. Theirs is a true friendship that has stood the test of time (and loads of ill-conceived adventures), but it's also an unhealthy relationship. And it's thrown even further awry when Ben's father dies, leaving him a significant inheritance that's he's incapable of managing. His sister, Terri (Amy Poehler), is determined to contest the will, and the complicated situation is made even more so by Angela (Laura Ramsey), the very young widow of Ben's late dad, who seems to feel connected to Steve.
Is it any good?
ARE YOU HERE, the first movie directed by Mad Men's Matthew Weiner, aims high but falls pretty far down in its efforts to make big statements about too many big topics. There's friendship, addiction, the perils of ignoring mental illness, and inter-sibling issues to explore, not to mention a streak of environmentalism. In short, it's a lofty film that's a sprawling mess.
The one saving grace is the rapport between the two leads, and the story of their characters' deeply committed friendship. The film's take on the two is honest and unflinching. But that's not the case when it comes to the way that relationships with women are rendered. Newly widowed Angela is a flimsily conceived character; Poehler's role as the bitter sister who always wants to tell her disturbed brother off is also skimpy. Eventually, the guys do figure out, in a manner of speaking, their respective paths, but do we care about their journey? Not really.
Talk to your kids about ...
Parents can talk about how the movie portrays drinking and drug use. Why do the characters turn to substances so often? Are there realistic consequences for using them?
What do you think about Steve and Ben's friendship? How do they help each other, and how do they hold each other back? Is it a believable relationship?
What did you think about Angela and her relationship to the two men? Does she care for Ben? Or Steve? Or neither?
- In theaters: August 22, 2014
- On DVD or streaming: September 30, 2014
- Cast: Zach Galifianakis, Owen Wilson, Amy Poehler
- Director: Matthew Weiner
- Studio: Millennium Entertainment
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Brothers and Sisters, Friendship
- Run time: 113 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: language, drug use and some sexual content/nudity
- Last updated: March 13, 2020
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