Guest Artist

Movie review by
Tara McNamara, Common Sense Media
Guest Artist Movie Poster Image
Self-important character study has drinking, pot use.
  • NR
  • 2020
  • 75 minutes

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

While there's some instruction here about how to write, and movie is peppered with quotes about humanity from great writers, the only message most viewers are likely to take away is that you should never meet your heroes.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The movie plays into stereotypes about those who make their careers in the theater.


A gun is cocked and pointed at an intruder. A baseball bat is held as a threat. A character puts himself into a position to die via suicide, but he doesn't go through with it.


Hostile language and a few uses of profanity: "ass," "goddamn," and "hell," and "God!" used as an exclamation. 


A Lamborghini is mentioned to indicate spoiled, rich kids.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Lead character is addicted to alcohol, is often seen guzzling or demanding drinks; he justifies his consumption. Beer is given to a group of men as gesture of goodwill. Characters get to know each other better while smoking a joint. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Guest Artist is a drama about "the THEE-uh-TER" that's loaded with the stereotypical pomposity associated with Broadway power players -- including the cliché of the acerbic playwright who's addicted to alcohol. Liquor isn't sipped; rather, entire bottles are downed in seconds. A flirty couple also smokes pot to get to know one another, and another character smokes while on break. Expect some strong language ("goddamn," "ass"). A couple of scenes show characters brandishing weapons without expectation that they'll actually be used. The writing tips included in the dialogue might be of some use to young aspiring playwrights or screenwriters, but it's all fairly basic stuff. This is the first feature made by the production company created by writer/star Jeff Daniels and director Timothy Busfield. It takes place in the small Michigan town where Daniels lives and started a theater company that's run by co-star Thomas Macias.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byIamfullofSHIT August 8, 2020

A family movie!

PG: drinking usages and smoking
Adult Written bymovieraterandlo... July 12, 2020

There aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.

What's the story?

In GUEST ARTIST, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Joseph Harris (Jeff Daniels) begrudgingly takes work at a theater company in a small town. But once he gets there, he's put off by the tardiness of the theater's apprentice, Kenneth (Thomas Macias), and threatens to leave. Kenneth must convince Harris, who's his own personal hero, to stay.

Is it any good?

The introductory text at the beginning of the movie is the most interesting part of an otherwise tiresome exercise in self-importance. It says: "Based on an incident which became a play which became this film." Now, that's juicy. Too bad the resulting film is so boring. The plot of Guest Artist comes from something writer/star Daniels experienced not long after he started his Purple Rose Theater in Chelsea, Michigan. He'd commissioned playwright Lanford Wilson to write a piece for this small-town company and, when he went to pick up Wilson from the train station, found him drunk and empty-handed. But it's hard to believe that Daniels' real experience unraveled as the film does.

Watching a drama in which the lead character is drunk is rarely interesting (comedies can be different), and it seems nearly impossible to believe that an actor as seasoned and award-laden as Daniels would portray an alcohol addict as constantly pouring entire bottles down his throat, basically bypassing his mouth. It's so overdone, as is every other moment of the film. Daniels, director Timothy Busfield, and Melissa Gilbert produced the movie to encourage a love of the stage, and it's definitely playing to the back row. But a writer ranting about the sad state of theater these days is such an overdone cliché. It may be true, but that doesn't make it an entertaining subject. Moreover, it's unlikely that the film will work as a spark to improve theater offerings. There's an audience for Guest Artist, but many are likely to find it an exhausting waste of time. That said, since the film says an artist should never say he's sorry, Daniels won't be apologizing for that. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how drinking, drugs, and smoking are depicted in Guest Artist. Is any of it glamorized? Are there realistic consequences? Why does that matter?

  • This film could be considered the embodiment of the saying that "you should never meet your heroes." What does that mean? Do you agree?

  • Did you notice any stereotypes in the film? How did that impact your reaction to it?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love the theater

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