A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Live by Night is a Ben Affleck-directed (and starring) drama about Prohibition-era rum-running Bostonian mobsters who take their business to Florida. Based on the book by popular crime writer Dennis Lehane, it's filled with bloody violence, including shoot-outs both up close and from afar, brutal beatings, explosive car chases, and more. The body count is almost too high to count. There's also smoking and illegal drinking, sex scenes (though nothing gets too graphic), briefly seen photos of a naked woman in a compromising position, and strong language (including "s--t," "f--k," the "N" word, and more).
- Parents say
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What's the story?
In LIVE BY NIGHT, a Prohibition-era crime drama, Ben Affleck plays Joe Coughlin. A cop's son, Joe starts out as a small-time gangster with no ties to either of the two mob bosses who rule Boston: the calculating Maso Pescatore (Remo Girone) and the steely Al White (Robert Glenister) -- whose mistress, Emma Gould (Sienna Miller), Joe is secretly sleeping with. Recruited by both men, Joe says no. But when Al discovers Joe's affair with Emma, a series of events leads Joe south to Florida as Maso's deputy, starting another chapter of his life that's even more complicated and deadly than the previous one was.
Is it any good?
For a film about mobsters and Miami rum running that's headlined by big stars, this drama is shockingly slow, devoid of momentum and energy. Except for the pivotal final showdown --- a literal guns-blazing scene that finally pushes viewers to the edge of their seats -- Live by Night ambles from plot point to plot point, aided (or should we say hampered?) by an overly explanatory voiceover. Affleck's motto seems to be "Tell, don't show.
What a waste. Because the story itself is rich in possibilities, the action slinging from frigid Boston to balmy Florida, the characters an assortment of pain and ambition, rage and dysfunction. Stand-out cast members include Miller as Joe's troubled first love and Elle Fanning as a good-girl-gone-bad-gone-evangelical. Affleck himself is sadly inert as Joe -- though as a director, his visual imagery has punch. As a book by Dennis Lehane, Live by Night was a page-turner; as a film, it's a maddening slog.
Talk to your kids about ...
Who are the "good guys" and "bad guys" in this story? What separates them? How does the movie make it clear who to root for?
What role does alcohol/drinking play in the plot? How could you find out more about Prohibition?
How does the film portray the 1920s? Do you think it was as glamorous as it sometimes seems here?
- In theaters: December 25, 2016
- On DVD or streaming: March 21, 2017
- Cast: Ben Affleck, Elle Fanning, Brendan Gleeson
- Director: Ben Affleck
- Studio: Warner Bros.
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: History
- Run time: 128 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: strong violence, language throughout, and some sexuality/nudity
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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