A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that young George watches his parents fight about money. His relationship with his mother remains difficult throughout the movie; she turns him in to the police and disowns him. His first girlfriend dies of cancer. George is heartbroken at the loss of his own daughter after he's sent to prison. Drug abuse leads George to a near-fatal collapse. Like Traffic, the movie's premise is that the drug trade is impossible to stop because of America's demand for drugs. Regular use of strong profanity. The movie is set at a time when cocaine use was widespread and held in some circles to be socially acceptable. Brief casual nudity in a poolside scene. Sexual excess of the disco era is alluded to but not seen. In one scene, George is brutally beaten by gunmen working for his former partner.
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What's the story?
BLOW explores a time in recent history when changing social norms seemed to offer a tidal wave of commercial opportunity for someone inclined to take advantage of the situation. As played by Johnny Depp, George is less a villain than a young go-getter at the wrong time and place. He finds it easy to ignore the evils of a trade that offers him enormous amounts of money, a chance to exercise his wits, and a constant adrenaline rush from making up the rules as he goes along. In the funniest scene, George condescendingly tells a federal judge that he doesn't feel that what he did--importing and selling marijuana in the early 1970s--was a crime, quoting Bob Dylan to bolster his case. (You can see on the judge's face that she's adding months to his sentence with every word he says.)
Is it any good?
Borrowing more than a bit from GoodFellas and Boogie Nights, Blow works better as a character study than as a history of America's obsession with drugs. It's a subject on which the script presumes viewers will already have some perspective.
Depp is excellent as usual, and there are some very moving scenes near the end of the movie with George's father (Ray Liotta) and his own young daughter, who turns her back on him. Parents will need to fill in the blanks and discuss with their teens the larger cultural issues associated with the importing of cocaine and marijuana.
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