A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
Positive Role Models & Representations
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Jayne Mansfield's Car is a 1969-set drama about war veterans that will likely only appeal to adults. It has some very strong material but could inspire interesting discussions about the effects that war has on people. Some car crashes are shown, with bloody wounds, and a gun is shown and fired. A character is shown with burn scars all over his torso. There's some female toplessness and sex scenes, including illicit sex outside of marriage. Language is strong, with uses of "f--k," "s--t," "p---y," and more. Characters smoke many cigarettes and are often seen drinking until drunk. Some characters smoke pot, including two teens. A teen boy takes LSD and spikes a drink with the drug.
What's the story?
It's 1969 in Alabama. Three Caldwell brothers -- Jimbo (Robert Patrick), Skip (Billy Bob Thornton), and Carroll (Kevin Bacon) -- learn that their mother, remarried and living in England, has died. Her English husband, Kingsley (John Hurt), and his two grown children, Phillip (Ray Stevenson) and Camilla (Frances O'Connor), are coming to town to honor the deceased's last wishes to be buried at home. The senior Caldwell, Jim (Robert Duvall), wants nothing to do with them. But very soon, some strange friendships begin to spring up between the locals and the strangers. Meanwhile, the Vietnam War lurks around the corner, and memories of wars past start bubbling to the surface, causing new conflicts.
Is it any good?
Oscar-winner Thornton (Sling Blade) returns to writing and directing after a bit of a hiatus, and though the result is often downbeat and meandering, it's also thoughtful and effective overall. Thornton and his frequent co-writer, Tom Epperson, manage to make the characters deeper through the device of other characters talking about them. But the main point of this movie is the contrasting visions of war from several points of view, without ever showing any battle sequences.
Concepts of three different wars -- and the various roles played within them (prisoner, soldier, administrator, etc.) -- bring up complex and opposing reactions. Thornton manages to balance these themes with interesting and damaged characters while also creating a strong family dynamic. A couple of silly subplots, such as an accidental dose of LSD, don't quite work, and the movie definitely isn't for younger viewers, but adults will find food for thought here.
Talk to your kids about ...
- Families can talk about the character who goes to see bloody car crashes. What could be the appeal of this? What does he see in them? Is his fascination intended to send a particular message to viewers?
- What are some of the differences between the war veterans? Do any of them seem to be happy about their experiences? Did any of them learn anything important? How do they view each other?
- In theaters: September 13, 2013
- On DVD or streaming: December 10, 2013
- Cast: Billy Bob Thornton, Frances O'Connor, Robert Duvall
- Director: Billy Bob Thornton
- Studio: Anchor Bay Entertainment
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 122 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: language, sexual content, nudity, drug use and some bloody images
For kids who love drama
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