A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Deidra & Laney Rob a Train is a racially diverse farce in which teens facing desperate times resort to desperate measures to survive. Left alone to care for her younger sister and brother, the super-bright teen heroine hatches a scheme to save her family home and get her mom out of jail. Comic in tone and plotting, the movie also touches on some substantive issues (i.e., poverty, parental dysfunction, teen angst) as it weaves its quirky charm. Some suspenseful sequences find the title characters in peril on a moving train and on the run from the law. Other action sequences include a woman struggling with police and teen scuffles in a high school setting (some blood is drawn). There is occasional swearing and profanity ("s--t," "cinder d--k," "ass," "bitch," one use of "f--k", and a reference to STDs). Characters drink beer, and a law enforcement official is shown vaping. An adult couple engages in a comically inappropriate kissing scene, which is stopped before it can progress. The film lauds the teens' ingenuity, smarts, bravery, and willingness to take a stand -- but (spoiler alert) when they do things that are dishonest and/or illegal, they aren't held accountable, which might be a topic for family discussion.
What's the story?
Life is tough for teen sisters Deidra (Ashleigh Murray) and Laney (Rachel Crow) in DEIDRA & LANEY ROB A TRAIN. On their best days, along with a little brother, they're barely making it in their little house by the railroad tracks, while their mom, Marigold (Danielle Nicolet) works at a dead-end job. Their mostly absentee, dimwitted dad, Chet (David Sullivan) always says he's "there when they need me, gone with they don't," which isn't even close to the truth. But, big sister Deidra's a dynamo of a student, at least when she makes it to school. She's even able to scratch out a few dollars by taking on her classmates' assignments. Rachel is a smart cookie, too, but deals with typical teen issues like insecurity and friendships (or lack thereof). When Marigold gets arrested on a dubious charge of "terrorism" after having a breakdown and smashing a TV in a parking lot, Deidra has to take responsibility for the family's day-to-day needs AND try to raise an outrageous sum for her mom's bail. It doesn't help that Children's Protective Services shows up and her dad is of no use at all. Then, there's those freight trains, rolling by the house night after night. And so, desperate to save the family, Deidra and Laney become train robbers. Armed simply with a few tools, a teddy bear (?), and a lot of nerve, the girls succeed on a grand scale, closing in on a sum they hope will literally bail them, and their mom, out. Unfortunately, a train "cop," the vapid and vaping Truman (Tim Blake Nelson) is soon on their trail, and, at the same time, Rachel gets inadvertently caught up in the Miss Teen Idaho competition, which almost puts her over the edge. It's a simmering cauldron of stories that all somehow to come to a boil before the climactic ending.
Is it any good?
Sharp comic timing, winning performances by the two leading actresses, and an offbeat story keep this multi-plotted effort moving so fast that audiences have no time to question logic or reality. Plus, it won't matter that so many of the characters, particularly the adults, are little more than humorously one-dimensional. Folks will be too busy rooting for Deidra and Laney to care. What might matter to parents, however, is the fact that in Deidra & Laney Rob a Train, all sorts of illegal, unethical, and ill-conceived behaviors have no consequences -- but on the other hand, Deidra and Laney are good, brave, resourceful kids, and the people they're outsmarting really don't deserve to win anyway. Director Sydney Freeland has done a fine job with a wonderfully diverse cast and a story that shifts from a comical crime spree to a teen pageant and back again, and still manages to say something about poverty, parental responsibility, and about enterprising kids who turn out to be as unstoppable as a runaway train.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the fact that in Deidra & Laney Rob a Train, the girls never have to face the consequences of their actions. Do you think that could encourage kids to ignore rules and social values? Or do you think it's understood that this is more fairy tale than real-life adventure?
What does the term "one dimensional" mean in terms of characters in literature and film? Pick two of the featured characters (i.e., Officer Truman or Laney's friend Claire) and discuss them as one-dimensional characters. Are such sketchy characters more acceptable in comedies than in dramas? Why or why not?
In the Tanner family, who was (or were) the grown-up(s)?
Did the filmmakers make clear why the girls' mom acted so irrationally at the beginning of the movie? Did you feel you needed more of an explanation, or were you satisfied by the one that was given?
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