How to Deal

Movie review by
Nell Minow, Common Sense Media
How to Deal Movie Poster Image
Even Moore fans may find this hard to deal with.
  • PG-13
  • 2003
  • 100 minutes

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 4 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 3 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

A grandmother's drug use is played for laughs.


Car crash. A young character dies suddenly.


Sexual references and situations, including adultery and teen pregnancy.


Some strong language.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Teen drinking and smoking, and marijuana use (portrayed as humorous).

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that the movie has some strong language, and teen smoking and drinking. The grandmother's use of marijuana is portrayed as humorous. Halley's friend and her boyfriend have sex and she becomes pregnant. Halley begins to have sex with her boyfriend, but then stops because she says she does not want to care too much about him. Halley's sister comes home drunk from a bachelorette party with a male stripper's underwear around her neck.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bywonder dove November 17, 2012

Fairly decent teen comedy.

Cute movie! I rented this when it first came out and liked it (as a teen). I love Mandy Moore, so I basically watched it for her. Acting wasn't the best b... Continue reading
Adult Written byKeyKitty November 21, 2011

Good film/Relatable for teens

I remember watching this movie as a teen and I loved it. It was a nice mix of the books Someone Like You and That Summer by Sarah Dessen. Sure most parents thin... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written bymiracle333 April 14, 2019
Teen, 13 years old Written bylove_pink April 9, 2008


I loved this movie. The sexual contact was a little bad, like a girl gets pregnant and some one walks in on them. One girl almost has sex, but decides not to. S... Continue reading

What's the story?

Mandy Moore plays Halley (named for the comet), hurt and angry because her radio-host father has left her mother for a younger woman. She thinks her sister's new engagement to a straight-laced young man as the divorce becomes final and her father announces (on his radio show) his own marriage plans is insensitive. When her best friend's boyfriend dies very suddenly, it seems to Halley that love can never work out well. So she tries to ignore her feelings for Macon (Trent Ford), a guy whose primary appeal seems to be the fact that most of his face is hidden by his bangs.

Is it any good?

Alison Janney and Dylan Baker do their best not to appear to be slumming, but the movie keeps tripping itself up on idiotic developments that are supposed to be comic. There's Halley's pot-smoking grandmother (played by 1940's movie star Nina Foch) and the stuffy family of the sister's fiance, and idiotic developments that are supposed to be touching (like a car accident). And it also has the worst costume design of any movie in decades.

HOW TO DEAL is based on two popular books by Sarah Dessen. The books' fans -- and Moore's -- will enjoy the movie. But those not already committed to the star or the books will find the movie hard going, because director Claire Kilner and screenwriter Neena Beeber demonstrate stunning ineptitude in translating written material to the screen. The story, the characters, and the relationships seem to go in completely different directions from scene to scene. Without knowing what's in the books, it is not episodic; it is incoherent. And the dialogue is just painful. Deal me out.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how it can be hard to take emotional risks -- but harder not to.

Movie details

  • In theaters: July 18, 2003
  • On DVD or streaming: December 9, 2003
  • Cast: Allison Janney, Mandy Moore, Trent Ford
  • Director: Clare Kilner
  • Studio: New Line
  • Genre: Drama
  • Run time: 100 minutes
  • MPAA rating: PG-13
  • MPAA explanation: sexual content, drug material, language and some thematic elements
  • Last updated: March 14, 2020

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