Birds of America

Movie review by
Joly Herman, Common Sense Media
Birds of America Movie Poster Image
Dark comedy has shining moments, adult themes.
  • R
  • 2008
  • 85 minutes

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Jay, Ida, and Morrie are all guilty of crossing publicly acceptable boundaries. Jay has "touched" (though not abused) a girl, Ida picks up guys and sleeps with them, Morrie relieves himself explicitly in the neighbor's yard. In the name of dark comedy, yes. But some might take offense.


Ida has brief sex in a car with a hitchhiker, which is heard more than seen (skewed legs, pants pulled down and so on). Jay and his wife are naked in bed -- you can see their backsides. Jay briefly masturbates to a porno and is shown from above the shoulders, for about 30 seconds. Flash of porno shows breasts.


The F-word is used by Betty when she is angry. Morrie talks about his bowel problems using the s-word. Plus a sprinkling of other expletives.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Ida and Morrie share cigarettes. The whole family smokes a joint in a bonding scene. They also share alcohol. Ida gets drunk and engages in risky behavior.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that themes of suicide, promiscuous sexual behavior, and drug use are tossed around rather casually in this straight-to-DVD dark comedy. One character has sex in the car with a hitchhiker and three siblings bond while smoking pot and drinking.

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What's the story?

Morrie Tanager (Matthew Perry) has been bequeathed the family home and the role of its patriarch. He has had to raise his younger brother Jay (Ben Foster) and sister, Ida (Ginnifer Goodwin) since he was 18 years old. Now in his 30s, and striving for tenure at the university, Morrie is forced to run the family once more when the loony siblings come home to roost. Jay was found lying in the street wearing only a hospital gown, while Ida has been having sex with hitchhikers whom she picks up on her way to photography assignments. When Jay is accused by the police of "touching" a little girl, Morrie finds that his job and his marriage are threatened, and he begins to unravel.

Is it any good?

Though released directly to DVD, BIRDS OF AMERICA has a perky pace and some laugh-out-loud moments. The performances in this movie are taught and intelligent. Morrie's wife, Betty (Lauren Graham of Gilmore Girls) and the neighbor's wife (Hilary Swank) play wonderful straight women to the wacky Tanager bunch.

The three Tanager siblings bring a sense of intimacy to their performances, lending credence to their family ties. Their family bonding through alcohol and pot may be another symptom of dysfunction, but it's more believable for who these characters are. Mature audiences who like dark comedies and quirky family dynamics will get the most out of this renter.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about holding on too tightly to rules versus hanging on very loosely. How has Morrie suffered by taking on too much responsibility? How have Ida and Jay suffered by blaming others? How do they reconcile their differences? What are their family boundaries like? What could they do better?

Movie details

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