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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
How talent needs hard work in order to fulfill its potential. Lots of drug use both recreationally and due to addiction. Although others choose to stay away from drugs to concentrate on their careers.
Positive Role Models
Charlie "Bird" Parker is a talented musician who pioneers "bebop," a style of jazz. He also lives with an alcohol and drug addiction. Despite multiple attempts to stop, he struggles to overcome his addiction. He also has many affairs and is seen hitting his wife.
The movie is a biopic of Charlie "Bird" Parker, a Black man and one of the most famous jazz musicians who ever lived. He is a well-rounded character, with his extraordinary talent clear to all, but which is also impacted by his use of drink and drugs. Race is discussed and there are examples of some of the issues U.S. society faced during the 1930s-50s. The supporting cast has a good balance in terms of race and gender, though few are explored in any great depth. Mental illness is touched upon, but society's lack of understanding about such issues prevents it from being a positive portrayal.
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Violence & Scariness
A character attempts suicide by drinking poison. A character uses violence to cope with their emotions; slapping their spouse, attacking people, and throwing a saxophone through a window. While in a psychiatric hospital, a distressed person is removed by staff. Corpse shown in mortuary. A character is attacked in a dark car.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Couples kiss. Characters discuss sex, often with crass language. Bare breasts shown in a painting. A character has affairs.
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Language includes "f---ing," "f--k," "motherf---ing," "hell," "ass," "s--t," "bastards," "for God's sake," "p---y," "crap," and "Jesus Christ" used as an exclamation. People of color say the "N" word.
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Products & Purchases
Brands shown include Jack Daniels whiskey and Camel cigarettes.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
The main character is addicted to heroin and alcohol, and is often under the influence. Many scenes take place in bars where people drink alcohol and smoke cigarettes. A character obtains drugs from a doctor with a bribe and prepares them to inject. Spoon and needle drugs paraphernalia on table. Character says drugs help temporarily relieve their physical and emotional pain.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Bird is an Oscar-winning (for Best Sound) biopic of jazz saxophonist Charlie "Bird" Parker and includes his issues with alcohol and drug addiction. Parker -- played by Forest Whitaker -- is often shown under the influence of both alcohol and heroin. Many scenes take place in bars where other characters are seen drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes. A character bribes a doctor to sell him drugs and he prepares them to inject. A spoon and needle are shown in one scene. The movie is not judgmental -- Parker explains that drugs help him cope with his emotional and physical pain. But he is aware of the problems they are causing him and consequences to his actions are shown. Parker's young daughter dies in the movie, which sends Parker further into depression, leading to him attempting suicide by drinking poison. Language includes the infrequent use of "f--k" and people of color say the "N" word. Parker is occasionally violent. He slaps his wife, Chan (Diane Venora), attacks a man while in a psychiatric hospital, lashes out at a musician, and breaks a window. Couples occasionally kiss and sex is implied with Parker having multiple affairs outside of his marriage. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
People who don't like jazz often complain it's overlong, complicated, noodling, and meandering. These criticisms can all be leveled at director Clint Eastwood's Bird, who, unlike a jazz master, doesn't back up his work with any inventive flair. A nuts and bolts biopic, the film does at least have great music -- it won 1989's Best Sound Oscar. The early bebop performed in smoky clubs sounds as fresh and wild and it would have been to 1940s audiences.
Whitaker's solid as the troubled yet genius saxophonist Parker. He brings a formidable physicality to the role that makes him both believably tormented and inspired. In addition, Eastwood's direction isn't judgmental, taking a measured and sympathetic approach to the reasons behind Parker's drug use. But it's also painfully steady. At almost three hours long, the movie lumbers across key years in Parker's life, jumping around a timeline spanning his stage debut to his peak and decline. After trundling along, the movie ramps up the misery for the final act and by then, it's unwelcome. Similarly, unlike Parker's saxophone playing, his adversarial relationship with his wife, Chan (Diane Venora), is tediously one note.
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.