Beautiful Girls



Talky '90s romance; kids may be "just not into" it.
  • Review Date: February 23, 2009
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Release Year: 1996
  • Running Time: 112 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Most, if not all, of the heroes eventually make mature decisions, including forgiving ex-lovers for rejecting them and breaking off an affair with a married woman. Still, their actions include physical threats against other posses of guys, acting spitefully toward old girlfriends, and indulging in lots and lots of drinking. One briefly considers an affair with a (willing) adolescent girl, with the qualifier that the two of them would wait until she becomes of legal age.


Fighting in a bar brawl, ending with one character beaten so badly he needs hospitalization.


One of the characters shown in a bra. Nudity glimpsed only semi-indistinctly in pinup posters and girlie magazines. No sex shown, but lots of talk, including a 13-year-old girl who deliberately shocks by speaking favorably about "male contraception." One wife is having an adulterous affair. One character utters an explicit monologue about the differences in bodies between "real" woman and idealized/airbrushed "models." Jokey references to masturbation.


Pretty much the whole spectrum of profanity is heard.


Food-product labels, liquor brands, references to MTV, works of literature, and a strange male fetish for Neil Diamond and the vintage TV miniseries "Rich Man/Poor Man."

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Much social and private alcohol drinking, including inebriation, and some cigarette smoking.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this ensemble comedy-drama about occasionally loutish guys and the girls who love them (or don't) has an abundance of swearing and sexually-oriented banter, including marital infidelity. No actual sex happens, however; just lots of talk about it and quick rifling through pages of a porno magazine. The female characters can trash-talk as strongly as the men at times. The loose plotline isn't the strongest grabber for young attention spans, despite a gallery of recognizable mainstream Hollywood stars in the cast.

Kids say

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What's the story?

Willie (Timothy Hutton), a small-time piano player in Chicago bars, returns to his snowy Midwest hometown, ostensibly for his ten-year high-school reunion, but also to make up his mind about whether to grow up and get serious about his longtime girlfriend -- described as a lawyer with brighter career prospects than his. All his old buddies, going-nowhere working-class guys who drive a snowplow fleet, also grapple with their relationships; Paul (Michael Rapaport) pines for a fed-up girlfriend who has moved on, while former star athlete Tommy (Matt Dillon) still sees his class sweetheart even though she married another man and Tommy is supposedly committed to Sharon (Mira Sorvino). By the morning after the reunion the trio have made their decisions.

Is it any good?


It's the coarse Paul who gives BEAUTIFUL GIRLS one of its many do-people-really-talk-like-this? quotable moments, with an eloquent and poetic (and utterly out of character) defense of his wallpapering his bachelor-pad with supermodel layouts -- that idealized "beautiful girls" represent infinite possibilities and happiness for the unattached heterosexual male. With that he sums up the basic dynamic of the "guytalk movie," of which there were many in the 1980s and 90s. These were male-oriented, loosely-plotted comedies in which tribes of young, unwed guys weigh the advantages of committing to their same old, long-suffering girlfriends or holding out for the chance an electrifying hottie could walk into their lives (the unintentional gag here being a movie goddess like Mira Sorvino could be cast as the drab, ordinary choice). Such flicks provided actors (not to mention writers) with rich character parts and diverting bull-session dialogue.

Beautiful Girls is a decent but unspectacular specimen with an above-average cast. It has the benefit of sassy, savvy female characters as well, giving these barfly buddies the occasional verbal reality-check they deserve. If viewers invest attentively in, say, the first 30 minutes of Beautiful Girls, they'll have a reasonably fun time for the duration. Assuming, of course, a really hot, flashy action-blockbuster doesn't walk past and draw attention away...

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the characters and the choices they make. Ask kids of dating age if they relate to any of the attitudes here. Since the (faint) structure of the plot is provided by a ten-year high-school reunion and the soul-searching it brings, you could discuss with teenage viewers the choices they are making now, and how they might affect them in 10 years.

Movie details

Theatrical release date:February 9, 1996
DVD release date:April 20, 1999
Cast:Matt Dillon, Timothy Hutton, Uma Thurman
Director:Ted Demme
Run time:112 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:strong language and nude pin-ups.

This review of Beautiful Girls was written by

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Adult Written bybarb43 July 24, 2010
This is an incredible movie--check out the IMDB (sp.?) for more intelligent reviews, with more than an ounce of thought or depth, than Common Sense gave it. While it is not my favorite movie of all time, it does contain the 2 best scenes of all time. Watch it and see if you don't agree. Natalie Portman is stunning; Timothy Hutton follows her lead and keeps up. This movie sadly illustrates the unfulfilled promise that is Natalie Portman's career--but enjoy it nonetheless. Other movies I like are Pan's Labyrinth, Once, Terms of Endearment, all the LOTR, The Orphanage, Fried Green Tomatoes, The Princess Bride, Secret of Roan Inish, The Breakfast Club, Moulin Rouge, The Rookie, The Age of Innocence, Usual Suspects, The Departed, Mystic Pizza, Mystic River, etc.
What other families should know
Too much swearing
Great messages
Great role models


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