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Parents' Guide to


By Renee Longstreet, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 16+

Gritty biopic has sex, violence, drinking, great music.

Movie NR 2015 112 minutes
Bessie Poster Image

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Queen Latifah's spellbinding performance as Bessie Smith and sensational music more than compensate for the by-now conventional story of a musical artist's rise and fall. It's challenging to portray a complicated artist's life in a two-hour movie, but writer-director Dee Rees and her team have managed to avoid the pitfalls of such an effort by focusing on the inner life of Ms. Smith. They've chosen powerful moments -- musical performances, key scenes with those Bessie loves and hates, and pivotal racial incidents -- to bring their vision of Bessie Smith to life. Surrounded by solid actors -- Mo'Nique and Michael Kenneth Williams are standouts -- and with scene after scene of demanding self-revelation, Queen Latifah finds every nuance and gives a vibrant, once-in-a-lifetime performance. It's mature material. Sex with partial nudity, alcohol, violence, and strong language make it suited for adults and mature teens only.

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