A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Boundaries is an indie road-trip dramedy about a single mom (Vera Farmiga), her teen son (Lewis MacDougall), and her 85-year-old pot-dealing father (Christopher Plummer). Expect to see lots of marijuana on screen, with some scenes of adults smoking it. Language is very strong, with several uses of "f--k," plus "s--t" and other words. A teen boy draws graphic naked pictures of men and a suggestive picture of a woman. There's also some sex-related talk and a scene of former spouses cuddling in bed after suggested, offscreen sex. (She later learns that he's remarried.) A man punches another man, and a teen boy is said to have (accidentally) slapped a woman; she holds an ice pack to her face. Teens try to commit a robbery, but it's comically thwarted. The cast is good, but the story seems mechanical and never sparks to life.
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What's the story?
In BOUNDARIES, single mom Laura Jaconi (Vera Farmiga) is in therapy, learning to set, yes, boundaries. She loves to adopt stray animals and is having trouble with her sensitive teen son, Henry (Lewis MacDougall); he likes to draw graphic naked pictures and has been expelled from school. Though Laura has been avoiding calls from her 85-year-old father, Jack (Christopher Plummer), she reluctantly decides to ask him for money for a private school for Henry. Unfortunately, Laura discovers that Jack, too, has been expelled -- from his nursing home, for dealing pot. While trying to figure out what to do next, Jack secretly enlists Henry for a plan: They must get Laura to drive them from Portland to Los Angeles, to the home of Laura's sister, JoJo (Kristen Schaal), where Jack will live. While on the road, Jack will sell the rest of his stash and raise $200,000. But spending all that time together will test the family in ways they never expected.
Is it any good?
Though blessed with outstanding performers, this indie dramedy/road movie never really sparks to life; it's a little too aware of its plot and character components and comes off as mechanical. Written and directed by Shana Feste (Country Strong, Endless Love), Boundaries frankly has too many boundaries, too much material that seems cobbled together from other screenplays or learned in screenwriting class, with too little room to breathe. Even more distressing, Laura comes across as high-strung, screechy, and irreversibly damaged. She's not much fun and not very appealing, and her character doesn't do much to advance the quality of female representation on-screen.
The main male characters are the ones who get to have fun and be silly. But they're both defined, simply, by a single character trait: Jack by his pot dealing and Henry by his drawings of naked people. These traits are meant to be humorously shocking, but the movie's muted tone -- it's trying to be a touching drama as well as a comedy -- dampens all the laughs. Fortunately, cheerful, squeaky-voiced goofball Schaal elevates the movie in her few scenes. JoJo is the only character who seems to have any kind of humorous self-conflict; she's unflappably happy despite her cramped living conditions. It's too bad the rest of Boundaries couldn't have cut loose a bit.
Talk to your kids about ...
How are sex and nudity depicted? Why do you think Henry is interested in making nude drawings? How do other characters feel about them?
Is Laura a compelling character? Are there any moments that are about her? Does she make her own choices? How does she compare to JoJo?
What is the family relationship like in this movie? Do the family members communicate? Are they honest? Are they supportive or critical?
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