A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Breaking News in Yuba County is director Tate Taylor's dark comedy about Sue Buttons (Allison Janney), a sad woman who uses her husband's death to gain sympathy by staging his kidnapping. Characters smoke, drink, and swear ("f--k," "s--t," and more), and there's a scene of simulated sex and some sexual flirtation, as well as a bare breast. Violence -- including people being held at gunpoint/knifepoint, breaking and entering, property destruction, torture, and even murder -- becomes a bigger part of the film's climactic scenes, which might surprise viewers after the comedic earlier parts. The film finds much of its humor in analyzing psychological drives. The all-star cast also includes Mila Kunis, Awkwafina, Regina Hall, Wanda Sykes, Juliette Lewis, Samira Wiley, Ellen Barkin, and Jimmi Simpson.
What's the story?
BREAKING NEWS IN YUBA COUNTY focuses on Sue Buttons (Allison Janney), a woman who is routinely disrespected and unheard by her peers. When her husband, Karl (Matthew Modine), dies after having an affair with his rich mistress, Leah (Bridget Everett), Sue uses his death to concoct a kidnapping scheme to gain sympathy. As she dives further into her lie about her husband's disappearance, Sue weaves a web of crime and murder that involves Leah; Sue's newscaster sister, Nancy (Mila Kunis); Karl's co-worker Steve (Chris Lowell); Karl's former-criminal brother, Petey (Jimmi Simpson), and Petey's fiancée, Jonelle (Samira Wiley); Petey's bosses, Rita (Wanda Sykes) and Debbie (Ellen Barkin); and money launderers Mr. Kim (Keong Sim), his daughter, Mina (Awkwafina), and her handler, Ray (Clifton Collins, Jr.). Detective Cam Harris (Regina Hall) and her partner, Officer Jones (T.C. Matherne), attempt to crack the case as Sue continues to embellish the truth. Things fall apart when the parallel subplots merge together with deadly results.
Is it any good?
Tate Taylor's crime comedy harkens back to a time when Hollywood focused on entertaining, oddball films with unique stories and stacked casts. And this one is definitely full of heavy hitters, including Janney, Hall, Awkwafina, Wiley, Barkin, and Sykes, as well as stellar character actors like Collins, Simpson, Sim, Matherne, Lowell, and Everett. The result is a delightful film that imagines what a woman pushed to the edge would do to get back at her husband and her community. The script, by Black writer Amanda Idoko, proves that she has an imagination -- it also counters the unspoken idea that Black writers can be celebrated in Hollywood only if they write Black trauma. With a story that's as far away from racial trauma as Clue -- a similarly quirky film full of fun and moxie --Idoko shows that Black writers can and should be given the chance to write whatever they choose.
Also important is how Breaking News in Yuba County doesn't make a big deal out of the cast's gender, racial, and sexual diversity. It offers truly meaningful representation in the sense that no character is perfect or fits into an expected/accepted mold. Because no character is overtly defined by their race or other social factors, the characterizations get to shine, allowing viewers to see characters as flawed, unique individuals. A film that has an effortlessly diverse cast playing characters who exist outside of historical biopic or civil rights drama is something we need more of in Hollywood: It will help audiences broaden their ideas of what types of characters can exist on-screen.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the violence in Breaking News in Yuba County. Did you expect the film to have as much violence as it did? How did the impact of the violent scenes compare to what you've seen in thrillers and action movies? What's the impact of media violence on kids?
Do you consider any of the characters role models? Why, or why not? What is an "antihero"?
How do you know when you feel heard? What are positive ways to make yourself feel heard? How do you define self-confidence? What are ways you support your self-confidence?
How do you emotionally support your friends and family? Why is it important to listen to others when they are in emotional pain?
What are morals? What morals do you live by? Why are morals important?
- In theaters: February 12, 2021
- On DVD or streaming: March 23, 2021
- Cast: Mila Kunis, Awkwafina, Allison Janney
- Director: Tate Taylor
- Studio: United Artists
- Genre: Comedy
- Run time: 96 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: violence, sexual content, language and some nudity
- Last updated: March 24, 2021
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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.
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