A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that I Am Heath Ledger is a documentary tribute to the Australian actor who made it big in Hollywood in such movies as Brokeback Mountain and The Dark Knight. Ledger died at the age of 28 in 2008, information that is vaguely alluded to and not actually mentioned until the film's final minutes. The fact that he died of an overdose mixture of several powerful prescription drugs, including semi-synthetic opioids, isn't mentioned at all, and teens watching this might be curious about the way he died, which could trigger important discussions on this country's opioid epidemic. Ledger smoked cigarettes, and alcohol use is seen. Language includes "f--k," "ass," and "balls." Scenes from Brokeback Mountain show Ledger, playing a gay cowboy, kissing actor Jake Gyllenhaal.
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What's the story?
I AM HEATH LEDGER is named for the young Australian actor who died at the age of 28 in 2008 of an accidental prescription drug overdose. The movie was sanctioned by Ledger's family, and there's no doubt that it's a tribute to a charismatic, vivid person whose generosity and vitality made him memorable to friends and colleagues. His early drive as a youth to leave Australia for life as an actor is described, and the film lists his many creative outlets, including producing music and photography. Notably, he won a posthumous Best Supporting Actor Academy Award for his performance as The Joker in The Dark Knight. The movie also suggests that Ledger suffered dark moments, but they are mysteriously unspecified, which leads to questions about whether darkness may have had some connection to his untimely death. As presented here, Ledger projected an infectiously enthusiastic exterior that seemed to mask deep self-doubt and anxiety about his ability as an actor and his status as a celebrity.
Is it any good?
This is a deliberately obscuring documentary about a talented actor who died at the age of 28 of a prescription drug overdose, a fact that isn't mentioned anywhere in the movie. Ledger fans who already know his story will probably enjoy loads of home movies and loving remembrances by such actors as Naomi Watts and Ben Mendelsohn and by Ledger's sisters and parents. Others may feel they're only getting an edited version of his life.
In recent times, family members have spoken to the press about the scourge of prescription drug abuse. You have to wonder why neither the parents nor the siblings mentioned this concern when they appeared in the film. It has been observed in published reports that descriptions of Ledger's sleeplessness, frequent displays of obsessive behaviors, and unceasing energy, as well as dark times, could have been an indication of bipolar disorder, a malady reported to be present in the Ledger family. Again, it feels odd that such a possibility wouldn't have been presented and either discussed or dismissed in the film. Overall, I Am Heath Ledger feels like a collection of missed opportunities.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about whether it seems as if I Am Heath Ledger is hiding as much as it reveals. Family and friends speak of Ledger as a wonderful and upbeat person, but others suggest a darker side and "demons," not explored at all. Does this movie project a sense that there's information about Ledger that the filmmakers didn't want to reveal?
Prescription drug abuse is a serious problem that the movie chooses not to address. Do you think this documentary as a whole might have been a missed opportunity to speak out about this issue?
How does this documentary compare to other movies about famous people?
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