Parents' Guide to

Charlie Says

By Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 16+

Flawed, feminist take on the Manson story has violence, sex.

Movie R 2019 104 minutes
Charlie Says Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 12+

Based on 3 parent reviews

age 17+

Charlie Says – Not Much Of Moral Value

Charlie Says... is not such a wise title to give a movie that might have been an intriguing expose on some unforgivable murders. It’s also further hampered by the moviemakers spending too much time voyeuristically gloating over the unhealthy sexual indulgences of a bunch of feral hippies (with no mention of the STD’s transmitted between this moronic bunch). This graphic porno approach would have had far more dramatic impact if handled less exploitatively. The second half of this movie almost seemed to be made by a different team, less sensationalistic, and a little more worthy in its approach – though, still appearing somewhat emotionally manipulative. I agree that it’s important to pursue redemptive rehabilitation on gaoled sociopaths. But don’t believe that too many results warrant a release for perpetrators of hideously repugnant crimes against humanity (we’ve seen too many examples where this has gone badly wrong). This revisitation of the abominable crimes of Charles Manson and his sick crew, tells us little about the lives of these people before becoming members of his free love hippy farm. It wasn’t only Manson’s evil dominating power alone that turned them into killers. – they were free to leave at any time they wanted but, they didn’t - their own personalities, added to the drugs and perverse sex, also had an appealing hold over these easily-led, already damaged folk. Curiosity tends to keep one watching this entry and at times it's interesting but overall there’s not a great deal to learn from the sad experience and, it could have been told with less sensationalized over-indulgence or the added implied PC gender inferences to tick another modern Hollywood box.
age 17+

This title has:

Too much sex

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say: (3):
Kids say: Not yet rated

An overly familiar narrative and too many lengthy Manson scenes turn what could have been an exceedingly compelling take on a classic true crime tale into merely a mild diversion. The scenes in which Van Houten, Krenwinkel, and Atkins hunker down in their death row-adjacent cells with Faith hold the most interest, despite the amateurish acting, particularly on Murray's part. Many other biopics and inspired-by movies have given us scenes of hippies dancing and plotting on Spahn Ranch while Charles Manson raves nonsensically -- and though Smith does make a particularly magnetic Manson, hearing even one Charlie-ism like "The question is your answer" is too many, and this movie is full of them. Charlie Says probably could have done without the reenactments of the murders, too, particularly the disturbing LaBianca crime scene (though lovers of the disturbing will no doubt be intrigued, particularly since these murders are often given short shrift on-creen compared to the Tate murders).

At 110 minutes, this movie is about half an hour too long, and viewers will feel it most when Van Houten unblinkingly watches Charlie doing his thing. But there's sizzle in other Spahn Ranch scenes, like one in which Van Houten is sternly admonished that men eat first at dinner, or when a group of female Mansonites heads out for a Dumpster-diving expedition to gather food. Joyously singing, holding hands, road-tripping -- we feel the pull that must have snared this family's members and understand the pain that made them long so much for a place where they were loved and accepted. Later, as the three central former Manson women learn about race and domestic abuse and feminism in their period prison dresses, ultimately growing remorseful for their crimes, we see a side to the Manson story that's not often examined: the cult members' journey from mindless adherence to logic. It's realistic and surprisingly sad -- and for this reason, true crime fans will eat up this unusual viewpoint, despite the movie's flaws.

Movie Details

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