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Parents' Guide to

Better Luck Tomorrow

By Barbara Shulgasser-Parker, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 17+

Stellar students turn to crime; violence, language, sex.

Movie R 2002 99 minutes
Better Luck Tomorrow Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

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Is It Any Good?

Our review:
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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.

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