A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this quirky teen drama focuses on an awkward student who transfers to a stuffy private high school and finds a way to come into her own. The film has some spot-on scenes that showcase the cruelty of high school caste systems and the misguided decisions of overprotective parents. An acronym that includes an expletive ("f--k") plays an important role in the plot, and the story is also catalyzed by a terrible tragedy that may be disturbing to younger teens, but the thought-provoking film is likely to spark some introspection by high schoolers.
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What's the story?
Thirteen-year-old Vanessa (Savanah Wiltfong) has liked her childhood friend Philip (Shayne Topp) forever. But he thinks she’s unsophisticated and awkward, and makes it a point to say so given any opening. (She doodles a lot and writes to an imaginary friend called Lemon Lima.) Other kids at her new Alaskan private school, where she has a scholarship, are relegating her to Team FUBAR (an acronym that crudely indicates loserdom), a group of classmates saddled with all types of ailments, from fibromyalgia to general outsider status. But they’re determined to prove their worth at the upcoming Snowstorm Survivor competition, where they will demand their right to be respected and treated as equals. When tragedy strikes, the team is all the more resolute: triumph will be theirs.
Is it any good?
Halfway through DEAR LEMON LIMA, things start looking up. The inertia that afflicts the first half dissipates, giving way to a sense of empowerment as the lead character, Vanessa, starts to realize the boy she likes isn’t worth the trouble, and that she, in fact, is happy to assert herself. In turn, she influences others to break out of their boxes, too. Then, the studied, stylized quirkiness that’s omnipresent -- that overwhelms the film, in fact -- doesn’t seem so bad; the film’s color-saturated look-and-feel and tinkly-music-box soundtrack start to charm. And its message of tolerance and equality, compassion and kindness begins to work its magic.
That’s the upside. But here’s the hitch: Dear Lemon Lima simply tries too hard, and its forced eccentricity strains its potential likeability and power. The characters border on caricature, which is a shame. Sometimes, it’s best to tell a beautiful story simply, with few adornments.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Hercules’ decision. Why do you think he made this choice? Do you think he had other options?
What do you think about Vanessa’s approach to the Snowstorm Survivor competition? How did she transform over the course of the movie?
How is this movie different or similar to other movies about teens or high school?
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