A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Braking for Whales is a dramedy about a brother and sister (Tom Felton and Tammin Sursok) who don't get along but must go on a trip together as their recently deceased mother's last request. Each sibling is struggling to get a grip on their sexuality: One is a sex addict, while the other denies his homosexuality. The result is a litany of lewd jokes about everything from sex and sexual orientation to farts and even rape. The film takes place across Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas and makes fun of those with conservative/Christian beliefs. There are a couple of brief masturbation scenes, but nothing sensitive is shown. Men kiss, and a woman is seen in her bra. A couple of characters smoke, and drinking leads to bonding in one scene and violence in another. Frequent profane, crude language includes "c--k," "f--k," "f--got," and more. Ultimately, the message is about embracing and loving yourself for who you are.
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What's the story?
In BRAKING FOR WHALES, when their mother dies, estranged adult siblings Star (Tammin Sursok) and Brandon (Harry Potter's Tom Felton) reunite for the reading of the will. It turns out that in order to get their inheritance, they'll need to go on a road trip to dispose of her ashes in a very specific way.
Is it any good?
Sibling disdain is familiar territory -- and while it's often comedy gold, first-time feature director Sean McEwen doesn't manage to make it relatable enough here. Their characterizations in Braking for Whales operate in stereotypes, but Aussie Sursok (who's also the film's co-writer and McEwen's wife) and Brit Felton manage to show off their comedic and dramatic range as Middle America siblings. But as much as the actors strive to bring dimension to their poorly drawn characters, it's still a bit cringey. Brandon is a Christian Republican who's trying to "pray away the gay" and has gone broke paying for his own conversion therapy courses. And Star is an agnostic sex addict who's struggling to control her urges through exclusive self-gratification. We never get a grasp on why the two children of a bohemian-type mother might be dealing with these particular issues because, given the stereotypes, it's unlikely she would have raised them with shame. Given the way other characters are treated in the film, the script's answer seems to lie in the part of the country where Brandon and Star grew up.
While the leafy beauty of Oklahoma is shown through the windows of the siblings' Winnebago and the production quite likely took advantage of the state's tax credits, it's basically making fun of the people who populate the region. Star and Brandon's Aunt Jackie (Wendi McLendon-Covey) and Uncle Randal (David Koechner) are over-the-top "social conservatives" whose St. Joseph, Missouri, home features a Second Amendment doormat and a shrine to George W. Bush. And a mulleted, gap-toothed Frontier City employee comes on to Star and suggests exchanging a corn dog for sex. But kudos to Austin Swift for elevating his role as a small-town Okie who defies clichés and is secure in his own sexuality. While parts of the script slide toward easy blue humor, the dialogue does have moments that truly snap and crackle -- giving the cast just enough good material to pop.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Braking for Whales compares to other road trip movies. Why do you think filmmakers love to use a road trip as a plot device? Do you find that road trips bring people together in real ife?
Is the Walker family quirkier or more dysfunctional than most? Did you find the relationship between Star and Brandon realistic? Why or why not?
How does the characters' sexuality affect their relationships and their opinion of themselves?
Discuss the use of profanity in the film. Do you think the strong language was necessary to tell the story? Did it make the movie funnier?
Does the film glamorize smoking and drinking?
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