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Parents' Guide to

Circus of Books

By Barbara Shulgasser-Parker, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 16+

Docu about owners of gay porn shop has sex, language.

Movie NR 2019 92 minutes
Circus of Books Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

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

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Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say: Not yet rated
Kids say: Not yet rated

Overall the film is a moving documentary, a historical tidbit about a no-longer viable business. But that story isn't half as interesting as the family drama of tolerance, and a quick re-edit would fix that problem. While the oddity of a seemingly conventional couple running an unconventional business is interesting, on its own that story offers only minimal emotional impact.

Even when Karen's failure to accept her gay son is finally addressed, Circus of Books leaves us to view her as a villain for far too long, giving no early hint of her eventual extraordinary quest to find a way to erase her prejudices. Karen Mason, the religious Jew who couldn't accept her gay son because her religion dictated that gayness was an abomination, becomes a leader in PFLAG, Parents and Friend of Lesbians and Gays. Had we been offered a hint of that at the beginning of the film, the story of the store would have been imbued with nuance and emotion otherwise absent.

Movie Details

  • In theaters: December 20, 2019
  • On DVD or streaming: April 22, 2020
  • Director: Rachel Mason
  • Studio: Netflix
  • Genre: Documentary
  • Run time: 92 minutes
  • MPAA rating: NR
  • Last updated: February 18, 2023

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