Jayne Mansfield's Car

  • Review Date: September 11, 2013
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2013
  • Running Time: 122 minutes

Common Sense Media says

Thoughtful drama about effects of war has mature content.
  • Review Date: September 11, 2013
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2013
  • Running Time: 122 minutes

Age(i)

2
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17

Quality(i)

 

What parents need to know

Positive messages
The movie has a complex set of messages about war. Several characters have come home from war, having survived accidents, capture, and battles -- or having seen no action at all. Each experience has left a man lost, sad, unfulfilled, or damaged in some way.
Positive role models
Two older characters who were once enemies learn to become friends (they realize that they had more in common than they thought). A younger character opposes and protests the Vietnam War in an illegal way that leads to arrest. Mostly, though, these characters are damaged and lost and behave in unpleasant ways.
Violence
The family patriarch loves to visit crash scenes. Viewers see a couple of mangled cars, a dead body with a bloody head wound, and a live victim with a gory broken leg (blood and bone are visible). Characters also visit Jayne Mansfield's death car and talk about her accident. Two characters go hunting, and one threatens another with a gun. A character is shown with burn scars all over his torso, and he describes his war experiences. Characters also generally argue and fight with one another (including punching). In one shot, it appears as if a character has pinned war medals to his naked chest.
Sex
Three women appear topless. One of the main characters masturbates in front of a topless woman (nothing below the waist is shown). A man sleeps with a married woman. Some passionate kissing and strong sex talk throughout, including talk of prostitutes and "robbing the cradle."
Language

Language is very strong, albeit not constant. Words include "f--k" and "s--t" (in various permutations), "hell," "a--hole," "queer," "bastard," "goddamn," "whore," "p---y," "ass," "damn," "bitch," and "t-ts."

 

Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Two teens are shown smoking pot and then talking about taking LSD. One teen actually takes LSD and then drops some in a tea pitcher for others to take, unknowingly. Characters smoke cigarettes frequently, and drink alcohol (mostly beer, but also hard liquor in some scenes). Characters often get very drunk. Some adult characters smoke pot. One adult character hosts a drug party with pot and mescaline.

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.

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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?

QUALITY
 
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.

Families can talk 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?
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  • 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?
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  • How are sexdrinkingsmoking, and drugs incorporated into these characters' lives? Are they portrayed as positive or negative forces? Are there consequences for substance use?
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Movie details

Theatrical release date:September 13, 2013
DVD release date: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

This review of Jayne Mansfield's Car was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Quality

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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