Brighton Beach Memoirs

Movie review by
Grace Montgomery, Common Sense Media
Brighton Beach Memoirs Movie Poster Image
Poignant portrayal of puberty has sexual content, profanity.
  • PG-13
  • 1986
  • 108 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

The importance of providing for and taking care of your family is strongly brought home by all the characters. Even though they all make mistakes, they discover that family forgives.

Positive Role Models & Representations

When Stanley stands up for a coworker against his rude boss, he proves he's a strong role model. And although he messes up and loses his paycheck gambling, he shows he's remorseful for his actions and does the right thing.

Violence
Sex

Although the only actual breasts shown are in a National Geographic magazine, there's a lot of talk about sex and masturbating. As Eugene struggles through puberty, he's obsessed with boobs, the "golden palace of the Himalayas," and seeing his cousin Nora and his attractive older neighbor naked. There are some frank talks about sex and masturbating with his older brother, who assures him that "everyone whacks off," even their father.

Language

"S---t" is used a few times, and "f--k" is used once.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

People are shown smoking in a pool hall in one scene, but only the bad guys are shown smoking, not the main characters. Mr. Murphy is referred to throughout the movie as a drunk and is shown leaving a bar intoxicated. But negative consequences are shown for his behavior, and drinking is strongly frowned upon by the main characters.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Brighton Beach Memoirs is a funny and poignant portrayal of the awkwardness of adolescence that is probably best for teens and up. Although there's no violence and very few references to alcohol and smoking, masturbation and sex are central themes in the movie, and characters swear at a few points ("s--t" and one "f--k"). Overall it has ample examples of positive messages and role models and shows a positive portrayal of what it's like to go through puberty.

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What's the story?

Neil Simon's hit Broadway play was adapted for the film BRIGHTON BEACH MEMOIRS. The movie chronicles the experiences of growing up poor in a big Jewish family in 1937's New York. Eugene (Jonathan Silverman) narrates the story as he navigates the pitfalls of puberty and watches his parents struggle to make ends meet, and his brother, cousin, and aunt try to discover what to do with their lives.

Is it any good?

Although it's full of clichés (the overbearing Jewish mother, the horny teenager, the drunk Irish neighbor), somehow Brighton Beach Memoirs just works. It's a sweet film that nicely captures the awkwardness of being a teen boy, the youngest in the family, and poor. The characters are genuine and relatable, and Eugene is an amusing and sympathetic narrator. Teens and parents will find lots to discuss. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about puberty and how it's portrayed in the movie. Do you think Eugene's experiences are typical? Why, or why not?

  • How does Aunt Blanche change throughout the movie?

  • Do you think Nora should have listened to her mother and uncle's advice about the Broadway show? Or do you think she should have made her own decision? When should you listen to your parents, and when should you follow your heart and instincts?

Movie details

For kids who love coming-of-age stories

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