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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
The movie conveys the message that self-esteem is important, especially during the dark days of the Depression, when many people have little reason to feel anything but gloomy. Simply putting on a good suit and receiving a few words of praise and approval can lift someone's spirits -- and often gives them the strength to push forward through difficult situations.
Positive Role Models
The characters are all faced with difficult choices and situations; some rise to the occasion better than others. When it comes to specific behavior, one character plays dice, while another collects leftovers that others leave on their plates. One man threatens to set a house on fire if its owner doesn't pay her ex's loan shark debts. And one woman seems to value material things -- she talks about liking men who wear nice clothes and have well-paying jobs.
Violence & Scariness
There's an unofficial boxing match. A gun is brandished. The head of a factory bullies his son and an employee (he also uses racial slurs). A shed is torched, and there's a threat of more violence from a loan shark, who later attempts to knife someone. (Another character goes at him with a bat.) A woman slaps a man who gets fresh with her; a main character points a gun at another point blank. One man tries to hang himself.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A man and a woman who live in the same rooming house flirt; she hints that if he acts just right, he might not "sleep alone" at night. They kiss at the end of a date. Characters are shown sitting in the bath (no sensitive body parts are seen).
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Frequent use of the word "ass" (as in "big ass"), as well as occasional uses of "damn," "piss," "s--t," "hell," and the "N" word.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
One character smokes -- he's shown holding a cigarette. A man drinks his troubles away and sneaks a bottle into his rooming house. A man scrapes the leftover tobacco from old cigarettes so he can roll new ones to smoke.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this well-meant but clunky period drama about African Americans struggling to get by during the Great Depression centers on characters who are forced to make hard choices during a hard time. Circumstances and racism combine to make it seem impossible to ever get ahead, but some of the characters are able to shine even against strong odds. Expect some swearing (including "s--t" and the "N" word), drinking, and smoking, as well as moderate flirting and a few violent confrontations -- but on the whole the story is more heartwarming than eyebrow raising. Still, kids who aren't already interested in the time period/subject matter probably won't be too intrigued. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
KINGS OF THE EVENING has no real plot to stand on and no reason to pull an audience in. It misses the chance to be a masterful snapshot of the hard-luck life of African Americans during the Great Depression. Yes, there's the basic framework of a story -- a young man leaves jail only to find a world hobbled by economic despair that, in turn, shackles most everyone but the monied few -- but little exploration happens. Wooden acting from Beckford and overacting from some of the supporting characters (Whitfield excepted) only reinforce the weakness of the story arc. (Not that they can be blamed for being written one dimensionally ... )
Strangely, the film doesn't feel like a period piece, either, despite the requisite costumes, sets, and props. There's a certain sense of authenticity that Kings of the Evening simply doesn't have. The movie is clearly trying hard, but it just never comes together.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.