A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Beats is a Netflix movie with mature themes about two damaged souls: a teen recovering from a traumatic event and a hapless former music producer in need of redemption. The film is set in the Roseland district of Chicago's South Side with hip-hop music as its cultural canvas. Viewers can expect violent images early in the film -- a point-blank shooting resulting in a tragic, bloody death -- with flashbacks of the incident repeated later. In other action sequences, there are gun threats, fights, and tantrum-induced vandalism. Profanity is part of the fabric of the film and its song lyrics -- countless uses of "f--k," "s--t," "p---y," the "N" word, as well as fat-shaming. Characters casually smoke marijuana, as well as cigarettes. Alcohol is consumed with one instance of drunkenness.
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What's the story?
Eighteen months after a horrific event changed the lives of August Monroe (newcomer Khalil Everage) and his mom, Carla (Uzo Aduba), Romelo Reese (Anthony Anderson) enters their world in BEATS. Romelo is trying to make it back to the fame and fortune he once experienced as prime mover for a major rap star. Now, separated from his wife and forced to work as a high school security guard, he encounters August, confined to his home by his mom and his own post-traumatic demons. Tasked with getting the teen back to school, Romelo unexpectedly hears the captivating "beats" August creates as he works in his bedroom, the place that has become his sanctuary. Romelo is impressed. Coaxing the boy into a partnership, undertaken without Carla's knowledge, Romelo begins to work on the music with August. As their alliance finds some success and possibilities emerge, including a budding relationship with the girl he's long loved from afar, August is forced to confront the past and take steps toward a future, while both Romelo and Carla must face disturbing truths about themselves.
Is it any good?
Made with earnestness, care, and complex characters, this film nicely combines familiar themes of coming of age and redemption with a dynamic urban setting to deliver a satisfying story. Television stars Anthony Anderson (Black-ish) and Uzo Aduba (Orange Is the New Black) get a chance to stretch here, and both of them are terrific, as are the featured players. Aduba's role as a grieving and conflicted mom is particularly affecting. Fans of the hip-hop genre will have to decide for themselves whether the music is as good as the characters in Beats and the story say it is.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the gun violence in Beats. Did the tragic circumstances inspire you to think about how guns impact the lives of kids in urban environments? Given the ongoing controversy about guns and gun laws, do you think the filmmakers were presenting a particular point of view about the issue?
Think about the character of Carla Monroe (August's mom) and Uzo Aduba's performance. Besides her son, who was Carla trying to protect? How did the filmmakers and the actress reveal that her behavior was more complicated than it might seem?
Define a "coming-of-age" movie. In Beats, one could argue that three characters (regardless of age in years) "came of age" over the course of the film. Who were they and what significant changes did they make?
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