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 thriller portraying human corruption and aberrant sex features full female and nearly full male nudity, violent death, profanity, and alcohol/drug abuse. A seductive female character (a wife and mother) is abused and raped; though we learn little of her back story, all indications are that she has learned to accept and enjoy this mistreatment. While the young-man hero and his allies react with horror and shock, some critics have complained that this film exploits the twisted elements of darkness and evil.
What's the story?
Innocent college student Jeffrey (Kyle MacLachlan) returns to his all-American hometown of Lumberton to help run his ill father's hardware store and discovers an ant-covered human ear in a field. Jeffrey dutifully alerts the local sheriff but can't resist doing some amateur sleuthing himself -- with the help of the sheriff's pretty daughter Sandy (Laura Dern). Jeffrey finds his own perfect-looking neighborhood conceals a monstrous subculture of sadistic outlaws and crooked cops. He winds up caught in the middle of a sordid sexual relationship between seductive, victimized night-club singer Dorothy (Isabella Rossellini) and a psychotic, drug-addicted fiend named Frank Booth (Dennis Hopper).
Is it any good?
Though not recommended for young viewers, BLUE VELVET is no "torture-porn" or slasher-splatter action that Hollywood commonly aims at the teen market. Among younger, horror-fixated viewers, filmmaker David Lynch enjoys a mad-scientist reputation for his movies, commonly full of grotesque, nightmarish images (often messily violent) and extreme behavior -- but this is actually a carefully composed and paced tale that still manages to be disturbing on its own terms.
The film-noir crime plot, deliberately vague about details, unravels like a slow-motion bad dream with a uniquely absurd internal logic; for example, awful Frank works himself into a homicidal frenzy with gentle, vintage tunes like the title easy-listening song (and Roy Orbison's "In Dreams"), and somehow that's creepier than if it were the most vile gangsta rap on the soundtrack. Characters all seem exaggerated (icons of either apple-pie goodness or diabolical malice), giving the thing a faintly satirical edge, and while Jeffrey shows suitable disapproval at Dorothy's plight and good triumphs over wickedness, a sense of perversity and weirdness lingers even past the happy-ending closing sequence.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the meaning of the movie. What are the close-ups of insects supposed to symbolize about this spiffy-clean looking community? Since the good guys look almost as bland and Boy-Scoutish as the villains are demonic, some critics have found the overall movie distasteful and exploitative -- like something the terrible Frank Booth would find "entertainment." Do you agree? Do you think David Lynch has a little too much fun with the violence and weirdness? How do the director's G-rated The Straight Story and sinister TV series Twin Peaks compare? What traits do they share with this movie?
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.