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Dial a Prayer
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Dial a Prayer is a dark, provocative film about a troubled young woman doing community work for a crime by working at a prayer call center. The crimes of vandalism and arson are shown through flashback; it's revealed that an innocent woman was badly hurt. Two women snort cocaine, there's casual smoking and drinking, and a scene of a party shows drunk 20-somethings. Sex is implied. Profanity includes "f--k" and assorted other expletives. Though the film is heavily entrenched in religious beliefs and attitudes, it doesn't align itself directly with belief or atheism. There's some light poking at the chirpy earnestness of the prayer call center workers, but the film mostly tells the story of a woman trying to fix her life in the midst of a small-town religious workplace setting and how the experience changes her. Better for teens or older who can handle the lack of a clear message.
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What's the story?
Cora (Brittany Snow) is a troubled 20-something who's working at a prayer call center to fulfill community service for a crime that escalated far beyond her intentions. Now she's surrounded by prayer enthusiasts, including her plucky, determined boss Bill (William H. Macy). Soon she learns her prayers are actually helping people, and she must grapple with her own guilt about her crime and lack of belief among those who now see her as a natural in the prayer mentoring world.
Is it any good?
This is a somber film with complex themes that imparts positive messages without singing to the rooftops about any of them. In part it's about being the odd woman out on religious beliefs, but it neither lampoons religion nor celebrates atheism. Rather, it begins with a woman who could not be less connected to the tenets she's about to have to espouse, and it shows her slowly grow more at ease with them, even if she never quite signs up for membership. Still, it leaves viewers with a sense of the importance of community for everyone, particularly that having faith in people is a good thing, even if that faith isn't traditional religious observance.
Acting from Brittany Snow and William H. Macy are what make this film work, as their characters struggle to reconcile their distinctly different perspectives on life. This isn't a slam dunk for either camp when it comes to religious belief, but for open-minded Christians and fans of indie films without too tidy resolutions, it's a well-acted, provocative look at what it means to redeem yourself and the often uneasy coexistence our deepest personal beliefs can create with our fellow humans.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Dial a Prayer's meditation on redemption. Is Cora redeemed? Why, or why not?
How are believers portrayed in this film? Are they stereotypes or accurate portrayals? Why?
What messages does the film offer about belief and its ability to comfort? Do you agree with them?
- In theaters: April 10, 2015
- On DVD or streaming: May 26, 2015
- Cast: Brittany Snow, William H. Macy
- Director: Maggie Kiley
- Studio: Vertical
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 97 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, brief strong language, some drug use and suggestive material
For kids who love dramas
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.