A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Giant Little Ones is a nuanced indie drama that largely focuses on teen sexuality. It encourages thoughtful discussion about sexual identity and sex-related labels, but it's also full of mature content. Teens are shown in non-explicit sexual situations: A boy and girl have sex, there's a sexual encounter between two boys, and characters frequently talk about sex in graphic ways. Language is also very strong, with many uses of "f--k," "s--t," "c--k," "f--got," and more. There are scenes of bullying and fighting, with a character's face being ground into the concrete, bloody wounds, angry arguing, and a story of a teen girl getting "roofied" and sexually assaulted. Teens drink and smoke a lot and are described as "wasted" and "so high." A character tells a story about "hallucinating on 'shrooms."
What's the story?
In GIANT LITTLE ONES, lifelong friends Franky (Josh Wiggins) and Ballas (Darren Mann) are popular members of their high school swim team. One night after drinking, they share an unexpected moment of sexual attraction. When Franky gets to school the next day, he discovers that Ballas has already spread rumors about Franky being gay. Unable to disprove the rumors -- and enduring much hateful behavior as a result of the rumors -- he quits the swim team and tries to slog through. His father, Ray (Kyle MacLachlan), who got divorced after coming out and now lives with his boyfriend, tries to talk to Franky about it, but Franky angrily resists. Ballas' sister, Natasha (Taylor Hickson), who suffered social ostracism after a horrifying event at a party, approaches him, and they reconnect and start spending time together. This enrages Ballas, who launches a drunken, violent attack on his old pal. But Franky only recovers, stronger and better able understand his relationships with both Natasha and his dad.
Is it any good?
Wise and clear-eyed, this excellent teen drama is far better constructed and more nuanced than the usual coming-out story. It skips simplistic labels in favor of a focus on the actual state of being human. Written and directed by Keith Behrman, Giant Little Ones builds a solid base with its characters, each of whom has complex, conflicting emotions, including the so-called bad guys and -- amazingly -- the adults, too. So many other teen movies lazily paint adults as ridiculous in order to direct more sympathy to the younger characters, but there's much to be learned from MacLachlan's superb performance as Ray and Maria Bello as Franky's loving but somewhat clueless mom.
Even Mann's Ballas is understandable, lashing out with rage and fear to feelings he doesn't understand -- or think he wants. Hickson is also powerfully sympathetic, lucidly explaining her personal tragedy, analyzing it, and comfortably deciding what it is that she needs going forward. Especially lovable is Mouse (Niamh Wilson), who potentially identifies as transgender and gives Franky truthful advice about "owning it." But Wiggins carries most scenes with his gentle performance as Franky, holding feelings inside but at the same time allowing them to be known. Giant Little Ones may not be a full-fledged story about what it means to be gay, but its focus on understanding is perhaps just as important.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Giant Little Ones depicts teen sex and sexuality. Does it seem exploitative or empathetic? What topics are covered? What values are imparted?
How much violence is shown? Is it thrilling or shocking? Is it gratuitous? Does it help tell the story?
What does the movie have to say about bullying? Is it always a physical act, or can bullying happen in other ways?
How are the adult characters portrayed? Do they have everything all figured out, or are they still learning?
- In theaters: March 8, 2019
- Cast: Maria Bello, Kyle MacLachlan, Josh Wiggins, Taylor Hickson
- Director: Keith Behrman
- Studio: Vertical Entertainment
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: High School
- Run time: 93 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: sexual content, language and some drug/alcohol use - all involving teens
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