Death of a Salesman
By Randy White,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
A classic American tragedy.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Willy treats his wife terribly, but she continues to revere him. It also depicts the themes of suicide, adultery, career failure, kleptomania, and family tensions
Positive Role Models
Willy is a confused, lost man who watches his life (and consequently the American dream) crumble around him.
Sex, Romance & Nudity
The two sons talk about their "first time" and other dalliances; we see the two sons heading out for an evening with prostitutes.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Drinking, smoking, philandering.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this film adaptation of the award-winning play depicts a man's life falling apart and is terribly sad. It also depicts the themes of suicide, adultery, career failure, kleptomania, and family tensions. Younger children and some teens may have a hard time identifying with and sympathizing with Willy Loman.
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Where to Watch
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What's the Story?
Willy Loman (Dustin Hoffman) is getting old and he's no longer able to keep up his New England sales route. But with the return of prodigal son Biff (John Malkovich), Loman's beloved boys are together again. As Biff struggles to work out his tangled relationship with his dad, Willy relives crucial moments from that past that reveal his formative influences, the great aspirations he has for himself and his sons, and his many personal failures. Things take a turn for the worse when Biff fails at a business interview and Willie is fired from his job. In one flashback, Biff is crushed when he discovers his father's philandering. Eventually, he confronts his father over the lies the family has lived with through the years.
Is It Any Good?
Dustin Hoffman leads an accomplished cast in this faithful rendering of Arthur Miller's play about a mediocre man whose life is unraveling around him. Shot on studio sets, the production looks stark and some may find it hard to follow, but the fine performances make it captivating. Hoffman gives a quiet but mesmerizing performance, never succumbing to the easy choice of making Willy just angry or confused. Instead, he works hard to restore dignity to the character. Hoffman's scenes with the equally brilliant John Malkovich are the strongest feature of the movie.
Teens and adults will become lost in this American tragedy. However, Loman is a remnant of another age, and it may take some effort for kids to identify with him. Still, this is a remarkably faithful adaptation of the 1984 Broadway version, and teens who have any interest in theater -- or need to read the play for school -- will greatly enjoy it.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the hopes and dreams they have and how they would cope if they didn't achieve them all.
How does Willy cope with regret? What role does his family play in supporting him?
- In theaters: August 16, 1985
- On DVD or streaming: February 17, 1998
- Cast: Dustin Hoffman, John Malkovich, Kate Reid
- Director: Volker Schlondorff
- Studios: Shout! Factory, Anchor Bay Entertainment
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Book Characters
- Run time: 150 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: thematic intensity
- Last updated: December 3, 2022
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