Tons of sex and violence in unpleasant Ballard adaptation.
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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that High-Rise is a kind of futuristic/dystopian drama based on a novel by J.G. Ballard (who has many devoted fans and a kind of cult following, though not likely among younger readers). Teens' interest might raised thanks to the casting of Avengers/Thor star Tom Hiddleston, but this drama has lots of very mature material. There are graphic sex scenes (with partial nudity) -- including an orgy -- as well as strong innuendo, gory violence (fighting, rioting, shooting, deaths), and frequent swearing ("f--k," "s--t," "c--t," "bastard," etc.) Characters are also shown snorting cocaine, as well as smoking cigarettes and drinking.
Sex Drugs and Video Tapes
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What's the Story?
Following his sister's death, Dr. Laing (Tom Hiddleston) moves into a state-of-the-art high-rise building built by architect Anthony Royal (Jeremy Irons). Laing attends some parties and meets a few his neighbors: the chilly Charlotte (Sienna Miller), the volatile Richard (Luke Evans), and the kind, pregnant Helen (Elisabeth Moss). Before long, it becomes apparent that, since the building has everything (swimming pool, restaurant, etc.), there's no need to leave. But then the residents start breaking into factions depending on social status -- i.e. rich versus the poor -- and all-out chaos ensues. As the building turns into a battleground, Dr. Laing faces some pressing problems: Who is he, and where does he stand?
Is It Any Good?
Adapted from J.G. Ballard's 1975 cult favorite novel, the movie starts well, but as the story descends into chaos, the film follows, losing the thread of what it wants to say and why we should care. Directed by Ben Wheatley, HIGH-RISE has an amazing look, meticulously designed and composed; it's all concrete and steel angles. For a while, this draws us into the movie's atmosphere, as does the outstanding Hiddleston, who's surely one of the most heartfelt of actors working today.
But ultimately High-Rise is more designed than directed, like a long TV ad. The movie never gets inside any of the other characters, and eventually Hiddleston has very little to do. The increasing, unsettling pandemonium seems to be for shock value only, with little at stake and little emotional resonance. Ballard's writing is strong stuff and can result in potent movies (like Spielberg's Empire of the Sun or Cronenberg's Crash), but Wheatley seems to have become lost in this High-Rise.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about High-Rise's violence. How much of it is necessary to the story? What effect does it have? What's the impact of media violence on kids?
How is the sexual content handled? What purpose does it serve? How much racy content in media is appropriate for kids?
How are drinking, smoking, and drugs depicted? Does the movie glorify them/make them look cool? What other reasons would these characters have to drink, smoke, or do drugs?
What do you think the characters start fighting one another? What real-life situations can you think of that might be similar?
What do you know about author J.G. Ballard? What are his other stories like? What kinds of things does he try to say in his stories?
- In theaters: May 13, 2016
- On DVD or streaming: August 2, 2016
- Cast: Tom Hiddleston, Jeremy Irons, Sienna Miller
- Director: Ben Wheatley
- Studio: Magnolia Pictures
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Book Characters
- Run time: 119 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: violence, disturbing images, strong sexual content/graphic nudity, language and some drug use
- Last updated: March 9, 2023
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