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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Since this is a film about serial killers, base human behavior is in full display -- from basic con games to cold-blooded murder. Martha and Ray pose as siblings, and their sexual relationship is mistaken as incest. Racist and sexist comments fly, too.
Violence & Scariness
Graphic and deeply disturbing, from crime-scene photos (bludgeoning, gunshots) in the opening credits to the many murders committed by the lead characters. A woman is shot while straddling Ray. Later, she lies on the floor bleeding and dying while Martha and Ray have sex. The moments leading up to the murder of a child (whose mother was earlier shot point-blank) are painstakingly detailed. Two women commit suicide -- one by gun, the other by razor.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Lots of sexual banter between Martha and Ray. Numerous sex scenes laced with violence. Some nudity (a woman's breasts are shown as she straddles a man during sex, and she's meant to be fully naked). Implied acts of masturbation and fellatio. Close-up shots of faces while characters reach orgasm.
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Frequent use of everything from "a--hole" and "bitch" to "dick" and "f--k."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Reflecting the movie's time period, characters smoke and drink frequently.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that most kids probably won't be interested in this period crime drama about a real-life couple who embarked on a murder spree in the 1940s. Just as well, since the movie doesn't skimp at detailing either their sex life or their terrible crimes, both verbally and visually. Some of what happens onscreen may be difficult to stomach (shootings, bludgeonings, suicide, etc.). Suspense leads to shock, and quiet introspection can immediately switch to outright gore. The killers themselves have very little to redeem them as characters, though the lead detective does undergo a transformation that may be inspiring. There's period-accurate smoking, drinking, and swearing. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
LONELY HEARTS is a gritty homage to noir, complete with gravelly voiceover and color-drained cinematography. It's also a florid drama and a debate on capital punishment, an investigation into what state-sanctioned executions do to those who bring criminals to justice and, subsequently, witness their death. Writer-director Todd Robinson (grandson of the real-life Elmer), has a way with complex storytelling, layering the moments until it all adds up to a stunning, if sobering, landscape. As Ray, Leto is, for the most part, a success, though he's more fun to watch when he attempts to seduce. But when things turn ugly, he operates in only two acting modes: whispers and screams. Hayek is exactly the opposite -- she's more substantial with the serious bits, screaming "You must love me!" or sitting in the interrogation room, post-arrest, stripped of makeup and wearing only her pain.
For his part, Travolta fully inhabits the emotionally weathered Elmer, right down to the defeated shoulders. His performance is surprisingly nuanced (though he could have done with less scowling) and his struggle to ground himself after his wife's death is believable. But it's Gandolfini, the narrator, who nearly steals the show: He relays Charles' depth by a twitch in his mouth and by a lilt in his intonation. He's the one making sense of everything. Too bad we can't. Had viewers gotten the real why behind it all -- which Lonely Hearts might have been able to provide, had it taken a clear stance as either guilt-free camp or dark, somber police procedural drama -- this would have been a far more compelling movie.
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Our Editors Recommend
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