A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Class Rank is a coming-of-age high school comedy about two students who team up to get their class ranking system abolished. Strong language includes a single use of "f--k," plus a few other words ("damn," "hell," etc.). Teens kiss a few times; two adults are shown in bed, presumably after sex; and there's some other brief sex talk. Supporting teen characters drink at a party, and adults smoke pot in one scene. Violence isn't an issue, though a character's parents are said to have died in an avalanche. Warm-hearted and sweet, it argues that slowing down and taking time to be with friends and family means more than a full college resume, and it nicely avoids most of the clichés in this genre; even though it's a small movie, it could rank highly with plenty of teen viewers. Eighties movie veteran Eric Stoltz directs Olivia Holt and Skyler Gisondo.
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What's the story?
In CLASS RANK, accomplished high school student Veronica Krauss (Olivia Holt) dreams of getting into Yale, but her dreams are shattered when she discovers that she's "only" ranked #2 in her class. She goes to a school board meeting and tries to get the ranking system abolished, to no avail. But while she's at the meeting, she spots fellow student Bernard Flannigan (Skyler Gisondo) and comes up with a plan. She'll convince Bernard to run for the board, and his vote will change things for the better. Fastidious, a little offbeat, and raised by his scholarly grandfather (Bruce Dern), Bernard is the opposite of the outgoing Veronica, but he agrees to run. They embark upon his campaign together, and slowly, against the odds, begin to actually like one another. But how will this newfound relationship affect Veronica's plans?
Is it any good?
This could have been just another generic coming-of-age, high school romcom, but it's surprisingly sweet, honest, and lovable; it feels as fresh and bracing as a brand-new John Hughes movie. It's perhaps fitting, then, that Class Rank is directed by Eric Stoltz, an honorary Brat Packer who starred in the Hughes-written Some Kind of Wonderful. Stoltz and screenwriter Benjamin August (Remember) understand that teens are people too, and even high achievers have their doubts and weaknesses. Thanks to tender, nuanced performances, both Veronica and Bernard rise above potential stereotypes and become human.
At the same time, Class Rank is kind to its adult characters, who are so often made ridiculous in teen movies. Dern, who can easily be either cranky or flat-out evil, becomes a slightly edgy, shuffleboard-obsessed, caring grandpa to Bernard, and it's easy to see why the latter loves him so. Kristin Chenoweth is very funny as Veronica's mother, who works on the Law and Order: Special Victims Unit TV show and uses tidbits from its storylines in her parenting. Also delightful is Kathleen Chalfant as the publisher of the local newspaper. The characters are certainly quirky, but Stoltz gives everything a low-key, relaxed quality, and nothing seems too desperate or obvious; it's all smoothed out into a nice, clean flow. This is a kind movie, with room in its heart for all types.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Class Rank's messages. What is it saying about achievement for achievement's sake? Do you think that's really what matters to college admissions staff? If so, is that OK?
What do you think about the "class ranking" system? Is it fair? Why or why not?
The two main characters, Veronica and Bernard, are both a little different from their peers. Did you find them to be realistic characters? Why are personality traits sometimes exaggerated in movies?
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