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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Focus on personal growth: Everyone comes up against some bad luck, but if you step into the same mess twice, then the problem is you.
Positive Role Models
No clear role models, but characters are resilient in a tough life situation (though some of that may have been the result of their own choices).
Characters from lower-income communities both exemplify clichés and stereotypes -- such as "hooker with a heart of gold" -- and defy them, such as a generous con man. The one Black character is portrayed in a way drawn from stereotype: tough, rough, controlling, quick to threaten with a gun, involved in a police altercation.
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Violence & Scariness
Police-involved shooting. Brutal beatings with bloody wounds. Threatening language. Gun aimed in a threatening action.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Romance with kissing. References to sex work. Explicit description of stripping. Images of women in lingerie.
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Extremely strong language throughout: "a--hole," "bitch," "bulls--t," "damn," "s--t," and frequent use of "f--k." "F--got" used as an insult. Black character uses the "N" word.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
All characters chain-smoke and drink heavily. Drug deal. Heavy cocaine use, shown to be a fun/bonding activity, with no consequences. Driving under the influence with no consequences.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Hard Luck Love Song is a romantic drama based on Todd Snider's song "Just Like Old Times." Incredible country music threads the soundtrack, and the story humanizes characters who are often reduced to labels: a con man and a sex worker. Drinking, smoking, and swearing ("f--k," "f--got," and more) are constant. The plot suggests that the futures of the childhood sweethearts at the movie's center were decimated by addiction, and now they're living through the consequences. But cocaine use is made to look fun, and driving under the influence isn't given a second thought. Artist/actor RZA shows up in a small but pivotal supporting role (the only actor of color in an otherwise White cast) but, like everyone else here, is more of a cliché than a fully developed character. Michael Dorman and Sophia Bush star. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
This gritty adaptation of lyrics by one of Nashville's most original songwriters is slightly off-note, although the melodies themselves are off the charts. Todd Snider's "Just Like Old Times" is a descriptive country song that doesn't involve a tractor, a truck, or a dog, but it's overflowing with substance use, regrets, and bad choices. Listening to the song's lyrics unwinds a cinematic reel in your mind; it's cleverly written, with a wit that makes you laugh out loud. But this dramatic interpretation is a downer. And, unlike a country single, it's not relatable -- at all. The story follows a pool hustler (Dorman) who drifts into town and sees that his old flame (Sophia Bush) is advertising escort services in the back of a weekly rag. They reconnect in a seedy hotel while drinking, smoking, and snorting a whole lot of cocaine, singing original songs on the guitar while trying to repair their pain. It's more Lou Reed than Garth Brooks. We all have friends in low places, but maybe not this low. Focusing too much on their current situation rather than how they got there, the movie loses the thread that lets many viewers see themselves or their loved ones in the story. Still, getting to know these characters helps expand our empathy and encourages seeing people as more than their labels or circumstances.
While the film isn't as dazzling as the song that inspired it, the music overall is phenomenal. Great songs are played at every opportunity: Bands performing in bars, radio tunes filling a car, and Jesse strumming his own original compositions in his hotel room are all strong musical inclusions that make the journey come alive. But country songs don't always offer happy endings, and this film's conclusion has to make you wonder, too. Can love really conquer all, even alcoholism and a lifetime of iffy choices?
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.