Brief Interviews with Hideous Men

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
Brief Interviews with Hideous Men Movie Poster Image
Intense look at gender and relationships is best for adults.
  • NR
  • 2009
  • 80 minutes

Parents say

age 17+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

The movie presents a multifaceted, complex portrait of modern relationships -- there's no simple take-away here. Women don’t have it easy, but neither do men.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Most, but not all, of the men in the film come across as deeply flawed -- to the point of near caricature. They're depicted as chauvinistic, opportunistic, or just plain messed up. The female protagonist, though equally flawed, appears to be very strong.

Violence

Though no one is physically hurt, some of the stories the men tell are demeaning of women. And in some, there's an undercurrent of hostility.

Sex

Men and women aren’t shown actually hooking up, but some scenes depict men ogling women or picking them up. A couple is shown cuddling.

Language

Fairly raw. Everything from “damn” to “f--k.”

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Some social drinking and smoking by adult characters.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this indie relationship drama directed by The Office star John Krasinski based on the story collection Brief Interviews with Hideous Men by David Foster Wallace is aimed at adults. The subject matter can feel very heavy, and the characters who deliver the movie's intense monologues/conversations about the coolly detached -- and sometimes destructive -- ways that men interact with women are are deeply flawed. Expect some swearing (including words like "f--k"), sexual references, social drinking, and smoking.

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What's the story?

In BRIEF INTERVIEWS WITH HIDEOUS MEN, Sara (Julianne Nicholson) is a graduate student driven to examine men and their relationships. She’s ostensibly doing so for academic reasons, and she finds plenty of subjects, both casual and official. She eavesdrops on men's conversations at restaurants, she watches them at work, and she sits them down for formal interviews, with each one-on-one building to a crescendo. The men (played by an ensemble that includes Christopher Meloni, Timothy Hutton, and Chris Messina) shock and awe Sara in their callousness and vulnerability. As she gathers information, her motives become clear: She’s gutted after a break-up, and she’s channeling her grief into her academic pursuits. But what has she really learned about men?

Is it any good?

Debuted at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival, this film is a respectful adaptation that manages to visually translate the material but doesn’t necessarily capture its potency. It was inspired by the late, great David Foster Wallace’s story collection, and Wallace’s work is hardly an easy read; rendering it onscreen may be tougher still.

That monumental task fell to The Office’s John Krasinski, who shepherded the project from concept to fruition (he also acts in it). Kudos to him for not completely botching the job -- and for instilling some structure on which to hang Wallace’s stories. He also assembles one of the most talented group of actors -- in addition to the list above, the cast includes Will Arnett, Josh Charles, Frankie Faison, and Bobby Cannavale -- we’ve seen in a while. But, in the end, the audience hardly arrives at a coherent understanding of men. The interviews are all too brief and the epiphanies unsurprising.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how the movie depicts relationships. How are men portrayed? What about women? Does this seem realistic to you?

  • Do the men seem like a certain "type"? Are they clichéd or multi-faceted? Are the filmmakers reinforcing stereotypes or confronting them?

Movie details

For kids who love dramas

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