A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Little Birds, an affecting drama about two teenage girls seeking a respite from their bleak lives, is both moving and disturbing. They steal a truck and run away to Los Angeles, where they get involved with a violent skateboard gang; one is excited, while the other is apprehensive and wants to go home, creating a conflict that threatens their bond. There's non-stop swearing ("f--k," "s--t," and much more) and some realistic, graphic beatings that leave the victims bloody and unconscious, as well as a horrific sexual assault. Teens drink, smoke cigarettes, and take drugs; there are also a couple of scenes of one of the girls topless.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Lily (Juno Temple) and Alison (Kay Panabaker) are each other's best friends and ballasts in a bleak town on the barren Salton Sea. Their families are sad and troubled, their lives scripted for dreariness. Then Lily meets a boy from Los Angeles, a brief flirtation that has her pining for togetherness. Alison helps Lily get to L.A., where they meet up with her beau and his skater posse. But life away from the Salton Sea is bleak, too, and Alison grows wary. But Lily wants to stay. How do they navigate these new waters?
Is it any good?
LITTLE BIRDS is achingly beautiful and haunting, a tone poem of bleakness that paints a realistic picture of teenage girls yearning for a way out of their dismal days. Panabaker is remarkable, and Temple even more so, never once hitting a wrong note; their characters brim with angst, fear, hope, rage, and excitement, sometimes all at once. First-time writer-director Elgin James infuses his own real-life gang background into a story that's both disheartening for its matter-of-fact violence and uplifting for its portrayal of two friends who share such similar lives and yet are headed for disparate directions.
And yet both of the main characters, as well as their families (Leslie Mann has a fine turn as Lily's mother, who wants to do right but doesn't always know how), are portrayed with humanity and breathtaking honesty. The film is strongest in its grittier moments and when that grit means tenderness, even if it does give some characters the short shrift. Not that it dilutes the movie's power much. Little Birds soars toward the horizon, and it nearly gets there.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how teen gang members are portrayed in Little Birds -- as violent, homeless ruffians with no caretakers and little future. Does this seem realistic?
Talk about Lily's and Alison's friendship. Why does their bond start to fray? What keeps them together?
- In theaters: August 29, 2012
- On DVD or streaming: December 31, 2012
- Cast: Juno Temple, Kate Bosworth, Kay Panabaker, Leslie Mann
- Director: Elgin James
- Studio: Millennium Entertainment
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Friendship
- Run time: 94 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: pervasive language, some violence including a sexual assault, sexuality/nudity, drug and alcohol use - all involving teens
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