Jayne Mansfield's Car

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Jayne Mansfield's Car Movie Poster Image
Thoughtful drama about effects of war has mature content.
  • R
  • 2013
  • 122 minutes

Parents say

No reviews yetAdd your rating

Kids say

No reviews yetAdd your rating

Did this review miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive, diverse representations in books, TV shows, and movies. Want to help us help them? Suggest a diversity update

A lot or a little?

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

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 & Representations
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.
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.
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 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."


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.

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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say

There aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.

There aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.

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

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love drama

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

Streaming options powered by JustWatch

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate