A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that older teens and adults are most likely to be drawn to this slow-paced, character-driven film, which is chock full of adult themes: A child thinks he's responsible for the fire that destroys his father's business; quarreling over seemingly unimportant matters threatens to tear a family apart.
What's the story?
AVALON centers around the family of Sam Krichinsky (Armin Mueller-Stahl), who immigrated to America on the 4th of July, 1914. As he tells it in his later years, he thought the fireworks were for him, a personal welcome to the most beautiful place he had ever seen. Memories reveal how Sam and his four brothers, eager to buy another sibling's passage from Russia, make a living in their new country by hanging wallpaper, though they're all musicians. Their American-born children are ambitious and career-driven, veering away from the habits and principles of older generations. Television gradually seeps into their lives, leading to the collapse of oral traditions that once made the family strong.
Is it any good?
Avalon is slow and thoughtful, with enough bickering relatives (the cast includes Joan Plowright, Aidan Quinn, Elizabeth Perkins, and Kevin Pollak) to make everything feel a bit claustrophobic. But writer-director Barry Levinson is doing here what he does best, digging around close to his roots and his own formative years in Baltimore as he did in two earlier, livelier movies, Diner and Tin Men.
There are laughs, and small dramas, but the overlying tone is one of melancholy. The movie is full of regret over how times have changed and that bitterness gets in the way of the fun.
Younger children will grow fidgety with the leisurely pace and sour mood, but older kids may come away with a new appreciation for who they are, and a greater curiosity about where they came from. They might even be willing to sit down and listen to some of the stories of their parents.
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