A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Family, community, and peers are all fundamental guides for tweens and have the power to influence their behavior, both for better and worse. Popular images that are widely available online sexualize young girls, perhaps especially young girls of color, and can influence how they see themselves and behave. Acceptance and belonging are powerful motivators. Immigrant families try to maintain their traditions as they, and especially their kids, assimilate into a new culture. Friend groups can be diverse.
Positive Role Models
Amy and Angie have a supportive friendship despite being surrounded by culture of bullying and girls being mean to each other (a culture they both participate in at times). As she tries to fit in with a new friend group, Amy makes some inappropriate and potentially dangerous moves, crosses ethical lines by lying and stealing. Amy's mother relies on a very traditional "auntie" to help educate her daughter, even as she struggles with her own problems, namely her husband taking on a second wife. Her culture teaches her to obey her husband, but she does have the option of leaving him.
Violence & Scariness
School administrators break up fights in the recess yard; one pushes middle schoolers toward her office. Before they become friends, the girl group bullies Amy, pushing her around, grabbing and emptying her backpack, making fun of how she looks. Amy gets in her own fight later, attacking another girl who gets Amy to the ground, pulls down her pants, and photographs her underwear to share on social media. Amy later pushes a girl into a river; it appears the girl doesn't know how to swim, but she manages to paddle to a buoy. A girl overhears a conversation about rape. Girls accuse a security guard of "groping" them, calling him a "pedophile" to get out of trouble.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Tween girls pose and dance in suggestive ways, mimicking dances they watch online. They dress in skimpy clothes and heels, though Amy has been told at a religious gathering that "evil" shows itself in "scantily clad women." Amy overhears other girls having a conversation about sex (and rape), which is explicit yet shows some serious misconceptions about specifics. The girls push Amy into the boys' bathroom to try to film a male classmate, and flirt with one boy online, offering to let him touch a "boob." Coumba finds what she thinks is a balloon on the ground in a park and blows it up, but it turns out to be a condom; the other girls are disgusted by her contact with it, try to wash her body and mouth off with soap. Amy starts to undress for a man when he realizes she stole his phone, presumably offering her body in exchange for the phone. To try to compensate for the embarrassment of having her underpants photographed and shared publicly, Amy posts a photo of her private parts on social media; a classmate calls her a "slut" because of it. Amy's friends get angry with her because other classmates later ask them to do the same. Amy's father is about to remarry and sets up a special honeymoon suite.
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Language includes "hell," "f--k," "s--t," "bulls--t," "loser," "stupid," "bitches, "damn," "boobs," and "slut."
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Cuties is a controversial French film (with English subtitles in the United States) that takes on the difficult topic of how young girls are influenced by society's sexualizing of women in a way that teens can learn from. That said, the movie's unflinchingly candid treatment of its subject could turn off some viewers and leave others feeling sad or even anxious. The tween girl characters' suggestive dance moves are filmed up close, and they dress in skimpy clothes and talk about sex and rape -- albeit with some misconceptions that reveal their actual innocence, as does a scene where one girl plays with a condom from the ground in a park without knowing what it is. The lead character, Amy (Fathia Youssouf), will do just about anything to fit in. She's pushed into a boys' bathroom to try to film a classmate peeing, and her girlfriends flirt with boys online, offering to let one touch a "boob." To try to compensate for the embarrassment of having her underpants photographed and shared publicly after losing a fight, Amy posts a photo of her private parts on social media. Her friends tell her she went too far, and a classmate calls her a "slut." She starts to undress for a grown man, presumably in exchange for his phone, which he caught her stealing. The girls sometimes put themselves in potential danger, but the film ends on a cautiously optimistic note. It also offers a glimpse into the lives of Senegalese and other immigrant communities living in housing blocks in Paris. Language includes "hell," "s--t," "bulls--t," "loser," "stupid," "bitches," "f--k," "damn," "boobs," and "slut." To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Senegalese-French director Maïmouna Doucouré has created an evocative, compassionate portrait of young girls finding their identity and values in this controversial film. In the hands of a less capable director, Cuties could easily have felt exploitative of its child actors, something the film was accused of in an initial (and controversial) marketing campaign in the United States. Doucouré films the girls close up as they move their bodies in a sensual way and strike suggestive poses in halter tops, short-shorts, and excessive makeup. But she offers these scenes precisely in order to shock, because they should be shocking. The public's reaction to the girls' final performance in the film reveals as much.
The subtlety is in the way Doucouré captures the young girls' innocence. Despite their poses, they're not exactly informed about sex. They regularly collapse into piles of giggles. Amy isn't truly trying to provoke; she just wants to fit in. That's where the context comes in: It's set in the multicultural Parisian exurbs, where Doucouré offers intriguing glimpses into the role of women in the Senegalese community. Amy is torn between the traditional values she's being taught at home and the draw of her new friends and culture. This feels both typical and an exceptionally perceptive portrayal of the plight of adolescence and the immigrant experience bundled into one. Some images will stick with you long after this film: Amy's symbolic wedding dress, her father's new bride shrouded in white, the girls' poses, and a beautiful closing scene of Amy bouncing back, literally, into her community and her childhood.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.