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Parents' Guide to


By Tom Cassidy, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 15+

Jazz biopic has drugs, drink, smoking, and language.

Movie R 1988 161 minutes
Bird Poster Image

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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.

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