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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Candy Jar is a 2018 feature focusing on two overachieving high school seniors who have been competing and arguing since they were kids. Rivals in their school's debate club, they spend all their time prepping for debates, doing homework, studying for tests, and otherwise nerding out. They both set their early admission sights on two elite universities and fret over the prospect of not getting in. They have no social lives to speak of, and the movie questions whether their achievements have come at the expense of living full lives. A key character dies. Language includes "f--k," "s--t," "ass," and "t-ts."
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What's the story?
In CANDY JAR, Lona (Sami Gayle of TV's Blue Bloods) says she detests Bennett (Jacob Latimore of The Maze Runner), her chief rival in high school debating. The rivalry began before birth when their single moms ran against each other for high school class president. Bennett's mom, Julia (Uzo Aduba), was an overachieving nerd, and Lona's mom, Amy (Christina Hendricks), was the cheerleader who edged the nerd out. Ambitious Julia became a successful lawyer and state senator, and now Bennett has applied for early admission to his mom's alma mater, Yale. Amy is a widow and barista barely making ends meet, and Lona is trying to get a scholarship to Harvard. When their mothers' animosity helps get them kicked out of an individual debate competition, they are asked to work together to compete as a school team in the state championship -- a collaboration both consider unimaginable. Their wise guidance counselor Kathy (Helen Hunt) understands that they have more in common than they have in differences and that teaming up might help them actually have some fun. Once they get past their long-held animosity, they begin to enjoy working together -- a social outlet that encourages them to rearrange their priorities. At one point they kiss, suggesting that full-blown romance may be ahead. The benefits of college education versus the drawbacks of its accompanying financial burden is the subject of their debates, which raises arguments about bias against the poor, the unavailability of decent lower schools in impoverished neighborhoods, and a system that is rigged to keep the wealthy rich and the poor downtrodden.
Is it any good?
Candy Jar is a solid movie about smart kids, and it does an especially great job reminding us all that life is short and that it's important to have fun. Full candy dishes in guidance counselor Kathy's office invite students to taste something sweet while doing the hard work of thinking about the future. This is the lesson that Lona and Bennett are invited to absorb from the wise and witty counselor, and that the audience is encouraged to embrace as well. Gayle is convincing as a girl too serious for her own good, and Latimore is charming as Bennett, a guy equally driven but open to the idea that loosening up could make life a little nicer. When death in their community shocks them, they seem ready to see how much more important friends and relationships are than "success" and "achievement."
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the amount of pressure high school kids put on themselves to perform well and get into elite colleges. What do you think are the ingredients of living a happy life? Do you think going to a highly ranked school or going to college at all are prerequisites to happiness?
How do you define success in life? Does how much money you make determine your success, or are there other standards of judgment?
In Candy Jar, Lona talks about the difference between facts and anecdotal life experience. What are some life experiences from which you can draw factual conclusions about life in general? What are some experiences that only tell you about yourself?
Jasmine talks about the many ways in which minorities are boxed out of high achievement and access to a decent education. Do you think wealthier citizens and communities have an obligation to offer good education to the disadvantaged? How might a better educated general population improve society as a whole?
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