A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that there are several murders, some graphic and bloody, and one character is the victim of domestic abuse. Both of the couples have sex, and one character is a photographer whose work includes graphic sexual scenes. Characters smoke, drink, and use profanity.
What's the story?
Early Grayce (Brad Pitt) kills his landlord and along with his terrorized girlfriend, Adele (Juliette Lewis), catches a ride from photographer Carrie (Michelle Forbes) and writer Brian (David Duchovny). These two, on a road trip to research the sites of famous murders, revel in the grotesque excitement of past brutality while Early steals a handbag, eyes Carrie hungrily, and murders a customer in a gas station bathroom. All hell breaks loose when a news bulletin spills the beans about their identities. Despite being held captive by Early, Brian and Carrie continue in their efforts to get into his head.
Is it any good?
The heart of KALIFORNIA is the guilty allure violence has for us; Brian is drawn to historical murders, just as we are drawn to Early, waiting to see who he will kill next. Carrie is a voyeur herself, photographing Adele and Early having violent sex. It's all supposed to be titillating, but the truth is, it's hard to like any of these flat characters enough to be drawn into their fantasies and trespasses. Juliette Lewis, however, does offer a nice turn as the abused girlfriend Adele. The moment she stands up to Early is both satisfying and genuinely chilling, as we know she will pay for her newfound strength with her life. More gross than haunting, this might satisfy hardcore adrenaline junkies, but it's definitely not for kids.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about violence in the media. Why are we fascinated by stories about murders or violent crimes? Domestic abuse would also be a topic to explore. Why does Adele choose to stay with and defend Early, despite his abuse? What are the responsibilities of third parties like Carrie and Brian, who learn about the abuse?
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