Grand Isle

Movie review by
Brian Costello, Common Sense Media
Grand Isle Movie Poster Image
Boozing, violence, and cursing in so-so Southern thriller.
  • R
  • 2020
  • 97 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Thriller centered on creepy alcoholic couple living in a mansion. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Two of the lead characters are alcoholics with a dark secret. 

Violence

Character stabbed in the hand with a knife. Characters punched, knocked out. A robber is shot and killed while trying to run away. It's revealed that two characters have people chained in the basement; character shown barely conscious and asking for help. Characters shot and killed. Some blood throughout. 

Sex

Some strong sexual content throughout. A wife tries to seduce a younger man, telling him how she fantasizes about sleeping with younger men; the husband asks the younger man how long it has been since he has received oral sex, and if he wants to have sex with his wife. Brief nudity -- female buttocks. 

Language

Frequent profanity. "F--k" used several times. "Motherf---er" used. "S--t," "a--hole," "c-m," "bulls--t," "c--k," "bastard," "ass," "goddamn." 

Consumerism

12-pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon clearly shown in one scene. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Movie centers on an alcoholic middle-aged couple. They binge-drink beer and alcohol throughout the movie, act drunk. Cigar smoking. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Grand Isle is a 2019 thriller in which a young man must prove his innocence in a murder by implicating an alcoholic middle-aged married couple. The couple is rarely shown without a drink in their hand, and often appear drunk. The wife tries to seduce the younger man, telling him how she fantasizes about sleeping with younger men; the husband asks the younger man how long it has been since he has received oral sex, and if he wants to have sex with his wife. Characters are stabbed in the hand, punched and knocked out, shot at, and killed. Frequent profanity, including "f--k" and "motherf---er." Brief nudity -- female buttocks. 

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What's the story?

In GRAND ISLE, Buddy (Luke Benward), a young down-on-his-luck handyman with entrepreneurial aspirations and a family to feed, has been arrested for murder. Detective Jones (Kelsey Grammer) is ready to declare Buddy guilty as charged, but Buddy -- injured, bruised, and bloody -- maintains his innocence, and tells the story of how he got into this predicament. Trying to make ends meet for his family, Buddy was sent to repair a picket fence at the mansion where Walter (Nicolas Cage), a surly ex-Marine, lives with Fancy (KaDee Strickland), a former lounge singer. As Buddy tries to fix the picket fence before the arrival of an impending hurricane, Fancy, hungry for attention, begins to flirt with Buddy. When the hurricane arrives, Buddy is stuck, and must stay with Walter and Fancy until the storm passes. Inside the mansion, Fancy is enraged that Walter has forgotten that today is their wedding anniversary, and as the couple get increasingly drunk and inappropriate with Buddy, it soon starts becoming apparent that the couple's violent tempers and belligerent behavior is attributable to more than alcoholism and boredom with each other. Buddy must prove to Detective Jones that not only is he innocent, but also that the basement of the mansion holds a horrifying secret. 

Is it any good?

This is as much an opportunity for Kelsey Grammer and Nicolas Cage to dust off their Southern accents as it is anything else. Grammer, who plays a cynical Deep South detective, sounds more like the kind of stereotypical Southern sheriff who tends to say things like, "You ain't from around here, are you?" And Nicolas Cage is, well, Nicolas Cage with a Southern accent. As the wife of Cage's character, KaDee Strickland is the alcoholic yet seductive older woman fond of mint juleps and the Billie Holiday song "Strange Fruit." The object of her seduction is a young man named Buddy (Luke Benward), who's just trying to provide for his family and is now stuck with these Southern Gothics until the hurricane passes. If this sounds like a layering of Southern cliche after Southern cliche, it's because it is, and yet, there's enough to the plot's twists and turns, as well as Cage's trademarked acting mannerisms, to keep it entertaining.

Grand Isle certainly isn't the stuff of Flannery O'Connor or Robert Penn Warren, but it's enjoyable enough for its own sake, with managed expectations. As an embittered ex-Marine, Cage pulls out all the tricks in his repertoire as he drunkenly lurches from rants about the military and the military industrial complex to menacing requests for Buddy to have sex with his wife. It's a chaotic mess and can be as hackneyed as movies set in the Deep South can get, and yet there's still enough in the story and in the action where you find yourself rooting for Buddy, and hoping that he can somehow prove his innocence. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about violent thriller movies. Did the violence in Grand Isle seem necessary for the story, or did it seem gratuitous? Why?

  • How does the movie use flashbacks to tell the story? What are some other examples of movies that "begin at the end?" 

  • Did any of the characters come across as Southern stereotypes? What are some examples of stereotypical/cliched characters in movies?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love thrills

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