A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this classic drama is tame enough even for young grade-schoolers. There are some G-rated references to issues like infidelity and seduction, and one of the main characters slaps another and gets drunk, but overall this is age-appropriate for 6 and up.
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What's the story?
Lili (Leslie Caron), a French orphan, is dazzled by a handsome carnival magician named Marcus (Jean Pierre Aumont) when he speaks kindly to her, and she follows him back to the carnival. She gets a job as a waitress there, but is fired for spending too much time watching his act. Lonely and sad, she thinks of suicide, but a puppet called Carrot Top calls out to her kindly, and she starts to talk to him and the other puppets: Golo, the simple giant who is shy with girls; Margurite, the vain beauty; and Renaldo, the sly, crafty fox. Paul (Mel Ferrar) the puppeteer, a bitter, angry man, offers her a job in the act, and through his puppets reveals his feelings for Lili. But Lili still has a crush on Marcus, who is actually married, secretly, to his assistant (Zsa Zsa Gabor).
Is it any good?
LILI is a charming story with a lovely theme song, simply told but with a great deal of psychological insight. Lili believes what she sees on the surface. She believes the shopkeeper who offers her a job, but it turns out that he is just making a pass at her. She believes Marcus' easy charm and small tricks. She believes Paul is unfeeling. But that same naiveté is what makes her interaction with the puppets so endearingly believable. As she says, she always forgets that they are not real. Just as Paul can only open up through them, she only opens up to them.
Paul is attracted to Lili because she is such a contrast to him -- she is direct, completely clear about her feelings. His leg is not as crippled as his heart. He has closed himself off, and yet his spirit needs to express itself; he needs to relate to people. So he does it through the puppets, and through them he has a freedom he could not otherwise have. When the act becomes successful, he can for the first time since his injury begin to develop the self-confidence he needs to be able to open himself up to a relationship without going through the puppets as his intermediaries.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why it is easier for Paul to say what he is thinking through the puppets. What does he mean when he says, "I am the puppets?" What does Lili mean when she says that people outgrow dreams? Why is it so important to Paul that the men who made him the offer didn't know he had a limp?
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