A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that If There Be Thorns is a TV movie based on a pulp novel that centers on a very unusual family. In this movie, a married couple is secretly brother and sister, which is used as fodder for blackmail; viewers watch them passionately making out as a prelude to (offscreen) sex. Family members scheme against each other and try to discredit or even kill each other. The body of a dead dog is seen at length on-screen; a tween boy tries to drown a very young girl in a potentially traumatizing scene. Characters are suddenly killed on-screen; a fire consumes a house and people are trapped inside. Women are hit with a fireplace poker. Expect mild cursing ("kick my ass") and rude language, as when one character is called "freak boy." Pornographic magazines are shown on-screen (no nudity), and a young boy keeps them in his tree house. A teen couple makes out in their underwear, then moans and sighs offscreen; a man bends a woman over a bed in preparation for sex before the camera cuts away.
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What's the story?
Six years after the events in the movie and book Petals on the Wind, IF THERE BE THORNS finds Cathy (Rachael Carpani) and Chris Dollanganger (Jason Lewis) married and settled into a seemingly staid suburban existence with sons Jory (Jedidiah Goodacre) and Bart Jr. (Mason Cook). But all is not well with the Dollanganger clan: A recently arrived neighbor has nefarious plans for the family and immediately begins to spin a seductive web around Bart, convincing him to hate and fear his parents and revealing their dark secrets. Can Chris and Cathy save their son before he's lost forever?
Is it any good?
If There Be Thorns is every inch the trashy hoot that fans of V.C. Andrews' shamelessly purple novels could wish for. When Bart asks the mysterious lady next door (Heather Graham in hilarious age makeup) for inside information on his deceased dad, she sighs and says, "I don't want to go down this twisted road" (whereupon she does, naturally). A psychiatrist engaged to take a long look at the disturbed-acting Bart asks Cathy and Chris if there's been any family history of "abuse, inversion, or deviance." Hey, is that a psychological term? Deviance? Sure it is.
It's all silly fun that would make for a great drinking game -- try taking a sip every time you hear the name "John Amos" -- and Mason Cook is effective, if melodramatic, as the warped younger brother, Bart. But this is most definitely for adults and teens sophisticated enough to see the over-the-top drama as the Grand Guignol it is. Younger viewers will just be terrified by the pool-drowning and dead-dog scenes and deeply confused by the revelation that Mommy and Daddy are brother and sister.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the premise of this movie. Is it realistic? Can you imagine a family like this? What do the filmmakers do to make the drama seem more or less realistic?
Why do you think family dramas remain popular? Do you think they're better as movies or books? Why?
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