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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
"It's a fulltime job to make people believe you are who you're supposed to be." Everyone needs a wake-up call.
Positive Role Models
Ben is a bright, accomplished high school student who turns inexplicably to crime. Students run a cheating ring. A student writes an article claiming that the one Asian member of the boys' basketball team, who rarely leaves the bench, is a "token" Asian.
Violence & Scariness
High school students beat each other up. A student is killed. Students point loaded guns at each other. Someone tries to commit suicide. Someone is brutally murdered. Someone is beaten with a baseball bat, creating blood spatter. A girl steals a CD called "Music You Hump To."
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
High schoolers kiss. Prostitutes service high school boys. A woman's breasts are seen. High school boys talk about sex. In a brief clip, a high school student is seen with two women, apparently in a sexual encounter. No nudity. A high school junior looks at a woman's décolletage when she bends over. Boys watch porn online. One thinks he spots a girl in their class.
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"F--k," "s--t," "pr--k," "d--k," "bitch," "damn," "wet," "rack, " p--sy," "f-g," "balls," "boning," "crap," and "hump."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
High school students use and sell drugs. A student uses a lot of cocaine. He wakes up one morning bleeding from his abused nose. Students drink alcohol excessively. Students smoke cigarettes. Drunken boys vomit.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that the 2002 Better Luck Tomorrow is a hybrid of high school comedy and violent gang story, with tone changing from wry humor to near-horror. The focus is on a community of high-achieving Asian American teens in a wealthy California suburb. With their straight As, extracurriculars, high SAT scores, and academic prizes, they seem headed to the Ivy League, but they somehow find time to steal from stores, sell cheat sheets, and deal drugs, leading to drug use, prostitutes, guns, and heists, all with seemingly no consequences. Beatings, blood, alcohol and drug abuse, murder, and suicide are all part of the plot. Sexual references are rife. Students watch porn. A youth is shown in a sexual encounter with two women. A woman's breasts are seen briefly. Language includes "f--k," "s--t," "pr--k," "d--k," "bitch," "damn," "wet," "rack, " p--sy," "f-g," "balls," "boning," "crap," and "hump." High school students use and sell drugs. A student uses a lot of cocaine. He wakes up one morning bleeding from his abused nose. Students drink alcohol excessively. Students smoke cigarettes. Drunken boys vomit. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
This dark coming-of-age tale is best for mature older teens and up. Justin Lin's sleek and skillful Better Luck Tomorrow is a well-contoured fantasy, not about magical worlds, secret gardens, or Middle-earths, but about the place within where demons may lie in those who may otherwise seem to be the best of us. This complex drama turns on its head the stereotype of the high-achieving Asian American high school student, as five youths in this category add senseless crime and violence to their list of otherwise college application-worthy extracurriculars. Characters are well-rounded, and the story moves smartly from one moment to the next in the life of Ben, straight-A, extracurricular king, but if the film has a flaw, it's that we never really see the reason -- apart from privileged boredom -- for the complete moral breakdown of a cohort of intellectually gifted boys with bright futures. "It felt good to do things I couldn't put on my college application," Ben claims, but this doesn't sound quite convincing enough. Why did it feel good? Just when you think Ben will surely reject all the violence, he kicks a victim his friends are attacking, just because they tell him to.
The tone varies, too, with Ben's cocky narration making it an almost comic companion to The Edge of Seventeen, while the drama mimics A Brighter Summer Day, Edward Yang's award-winning 1991 Taiwanese film about wayward youth of the 1960s. Lin is now largely an accomplished action director, but he manages actors well as performances here are crisp and believable, even if four out of the five male leads were around 30 when they played 16-to-18-year-olds.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.