Heavy-handed grown-up drama has lots of mature content.
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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this mature drama from Oscar-nominated director Alejandro González Iñárritu (Babel) is a heavy, lengthy movie filled with adult themes -- including crime, death, disease, adultery, sex, and drugs. There are many violent, scary, and disturbing images, the worst of which is a warehouse full of dead bodies killed by a malfunctioning gas heater. Very strong language includes dozens of uses of "f--k" and "s--t." There's also female nudity and sex, and characters both drink and snort cocaine. Many characters also smoke, including teens (an even younger character is said to be smoking, though vifewers don't see this). Overall the mood is very downbeat, but there are a few moments of hope and inspiration.
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What's the Story?
Uxbal (Javier Bardem) lives a complicated life in Barcelona. He makes his living as a kind of middleman between Chinese businessmen, Chinese laborers, and Senegalese immigrants who sell cheap goods on the street. Trouble arises when he learns that the salesmen are also hustling drugs on the side. And then his bipolar, drug-addicted ex-wife (Maricel Alvarez) re-enters his life and tries to establish a shaky connection with Uxbal's two children. He must also decide whether to sell his father's burial plot to a company that wants the land. And in the midst of trying his best to help everyone involved, Uxbal learns that he has cancer. All of this is balanced with the secret part of him: his power to communicate with the dead.
Is It Any Good?
In his role, Bardem gives a terrific, organic performance that gives the movie soul, and even beauty. Acclaimed Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu (21 Grams, Babel) often outlines complex stories with a heavy hand, and it could be argued that his serious, socially aware tales are designed more for awards and accolades than they are for personal or artistic reasons. For example, the hand-held camerawork in BIUTIFUL continually draws attention to itself.
Though Biutiful -- the title, taken from a child's drawing, is deliberately misspelled -- is dedicated to the filmmaker's father, it throws everything but the kitchen sink (and even that) into its plot, including cancer, supernatural forces, divorce, death, bipolar disorders, and adultery. It's just as busy and serious as Iñárritu's earlier films, but it does have the benefit of a one main character rather than a big ensemble.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the movie's use of sex and violent images. How do these things change the tone of the movie? Do they make Uxbal's story more intense? More downbeat?
Is Uxbal a good person? Do you like this character? What are some of the good things he does over the course of the movie? What about the bad things? How do they compare? Would you call him a role model?
In one scene, characters discuss how a young boy has smoked cigarettes. Is there a penalty for his actions? What about for the other characters who smoke? Does smoking look enticing in this movie, or is it a turn-off?
- In theaters: December 29, 2010
- On DVD or streaming: May 31, 2011
- Cast: Guillermo Estrella, Javier Bardem, Maricel Alvarez
- Director: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
- Studio: Roadside Attractions
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 148 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: disturbing images, language, some sexual content, nudity and drug use
- Last updated: November 4, 2022
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