Clouds of Sils Maria

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
Clouds of Sils Maria Movie Poster Image
Thoughful film about aging actress has swearing, racy parts.
  • R
  • 2015
  • 123 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

People aren't always aware of the impact they have on those around them, especially celebrities who are accustomed to being catered to. Themes include dealing with aging and insecurity.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Maria is initially a bit reluctant, but she finally embraces the fact that she's no longer 20. By agreeing to play a middle-aged character in a play, she also realizes she must stop seeing herself as the younger, career-making character she played decades earlier -- a character with whom she still identifies.

Violence
Sex

Two women briefly discuss the relationship that one of them has with a man they both know. The women are briefly seen getting undressed to go swimming in a remote lake, one in her underwear and one in the nude. References to sex and affairs.

Language

Frequent strong language, including many variations of "f--k," "s--t," "bitch," and "c--t."

Consumerism

People use iPhones and iPads on many occasions. Gossip website TMZ mentioned by name.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The main characters drink frequently, at meals, at nightclubs/social events, and at casinos. On multiple occasions they seem more than a little tipsy. Once they pile into a car after a night out, clearly not ready to be behind the wheel; they immediately back into another vehicle and then flee the scene, laughing. They also smoke cigarettes throughout the film. Reference to drug addiction.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Clouds of Sils Maria is a thoughtful look at the inner life of an aging celebrity (Juliette Binoche) who's had a very successful career but is still feels threatened by a much younger starlet (Chloe Grace Moretz). The movie deals with learning to embrace where you are in life, and the complex themes may resonate more with adults. Expect frequent swearing, including "s--t" and "f--k," as well as plenty of drinking and smoking. Characters get into a minor fender-bender while tipsy and then flee the scene. Women are briefly shown undressing to go skinny dipping; one is seen in her underwear and the other nude.

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What's the story?

Maria (Juliette Binoche) is a middle-aged veteran of stage and screen who got her big break decades earlier playing the young ingenue in a play. After the death of the playwright who gave Maria the courage to take on the role, a new director plans to stage the show again -- but this time he wants Maria to play the tragic role of an older character. Maria struggles to accept the fact that she's no longer 20, a task that's made more difficult when she learns that the younger role will go to an American starlet (Chloe Grace Moretz), a fixture on the celebrity gossip circuit who seems to spark chaos wherever she goes. To prepare for the role, Maria retreats to a house in the Alps to practice lines with her assistant (Kristen Stewart), a woman who's also struggling with her role and place within Maria's world -- and the world in general.

Is it any good?

An engrossing plot is burdened by over-complication toward the end of CLOUDS OF SILS MARIA, but no matter. Watching Binoche spar with Stewart, who brings her A-game here in a layered performance, is a revelation. It's a Stewart unleashed, her portrayal bold and intelligent, with dialogue that references both blockbuster movies (the kind for which Stewart became famous) and how the mockery of actresses who take on such work is lazy and unsurprising. (Moretz is a fitting third point to the triangle.)

The whole movie is, in a way, a meditation: on aging, work, art. On the employer-employee dynamic, the confidant-turned-antagonist. How can you navigate a shifting relationship, where the power arches from assistant to boss, from older to younger, in a second? How to keep on your feet? Do you surrender to the see-saw or refuse to play altogether? Clouds of Sils Maria will make you think about all of these questions and more.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Maria's reluctance to accept the role of the older character in the play. How did playing the younger character shape Maria's career and identity? What would it mean for her to abandon that self-image and play the other main character instead?

  • What do you think about the relationship between Maria and Valentine? When they're practicing lines, how much of the dialog feels like lines from the play, and how much feels like it's actually about their relationship?

  • What message do you think the movie is trying to convey? Is it successful?

  • How does the film portray drinking and smoking? Are there realistic consequences?

Movie details

For kids who love drama

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