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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Family values are a strong theme throughout, with a focus on empathy, mutual respect, and supporting each other. Despite some conflict, strong intergenerational relationships are formed. Positive messages include the value of teamwork and friendship. Examples of how following your dreams takes hard work and perseverance. Sexist behavior and language toward a female character is presented in a negative light.
Positive Role Models
Ellie is rebellious and a rule breaker, at first coming across as somewhat irresponsible and selfish, but then showing a more thoughtful, compassionate, and inspiring side. She has boundless enthusiasm and determination to make progress and to prove herself. Her mom Jessie appears at first to be uptight and shallow but then shows she is dynamic, supportive, and proud of her daughter. Uncle Tim is gruff but caring, quietly battling with alcoholism but determined to help his niece succeed. Buck is arrogant, reckless, rude, and smarmy -- traits that are portrayed as negative.
Violence & Scariness
A car crashes but no one is injured. Another car crash leaves a character trapped inside. The car then explodes and the driver is killed but there are no graphic details.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A couple of mildly smutty remarks and one mention of a strip club in conversation. One brief kiss between teens.
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Several instances of "s--t," "crap," "pissed," and "hell." Also "bastard," "bulls--t," and "oh my God." There is some meanness and sneering between teens with put downs including "shut up," "weirdo," "moron," and "idiot."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Bottles that look like beer and whiskey are visible -- character walks off holding the whiskey bottle but isn't seen drinking from it. Character considers drinking from a hip flask but doesn't, later smelling the open hip flask and throwing it away. Character living with alcohol addiction is hospitalized with liver sclerosis, but later recovers.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Lady Driver is a coming-of-age drama with positive messages and good role models, but also some language. The main character, Ellie (Grace Van Dien), is initially portrayed as irresponsible and rebellious. But she grows into an inspiring, enthusiastic, and determined character, who excels as a woman in the male-dominated sport of dirt track racing. There is iffy language scattered throughout including "s--t" and "bastard." Alcohol consumption is implied but not shown. But Ellie's uncle, Tim (Sean Patrick Flanery), is living with alcohol addiction and is hospitalized with alcohol-related liver sclerosis. The value of family and friends is a strong theme throughout, as is the importance of teamwork and mutual respect. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Despite a few implausible plot lines, this zero-to-hero racing drama somehow draws you in with its likable characters and -- paradoxically -- authentic dirt track settings. Lady Driver's rebellious misfit, Ellie, gets off to a shaky start when she somehow gets away with stealing -- then crashing -- the school car, only to wind up being towed, by some almighty coincidence, to her long-lost uncle's body shop. Fortunately Uncle Tim is a gruff but caring misfit himself, providing the perfect foil to Ellie's enthusiasm and determination. Settling into his role as mentor and father figure, Tim introduces Ellie to dirt track racing and the action shifts to the gritty, atmospheric world of the Petaluma Speedway, avoiding the flashy, Hollywood stereotype of a racing movie in favor of unpretentious characters and real race footage.
While Ellie's trajectory from total amateur to nationals qualifier is unrealistically fast, her personal journey is slightly more believable. She bonds with her uncle, builds bridges with her mom (Christina Moore), and finds closure over the death of her father, all the while finding her calling -- and her crew -- as an accomplished racing driver. If you're hoping for Fast & Furious levels of energy and glitz, step away. But if you're after a warm-hearted coming-of-age drama with a dash of excitement thrown in, Lady Driver should just about tick enough boxes. And the oddly abrupt ending might actually leave you wanting more.
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.