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Parents' Guide to


By Jeffrey Anderson, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 17+

Graphic sexual imagery in biopic of famous photographer.

Movie NR 2019 102 minutes
Mapplethorpe Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

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Is It Any Good?

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Parents say: Not yet rated
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Smith is effortlessly good, but his efforts are wasted in this numbing, by-the-numbers biopic, and the real Mapplethorpe's striking visual creations are blunted by a middling, timid presentation. Directed by Ondi Timoner, who made the excellent rock documentary DIG! (2004), Mapplethorpe is a surprising dud. It prompts the question: How could the filmmakers have looked at those lustrous photographs and then settled on such a flat, lifeless, monotonous look and feel for their movie? It plods forward, driven by an unsurprising collection of pop songs and montages.

Even more puzzling is the decision to actually show some of Mapplethorpe's more graphic photos while failing to grasp any kind of human sensuality among the characters; it's a chaste movie about a risqué subject. All of the secondary characters drift in and out of the movie, serving only to react with and to the main character; none of them come to life on their own. Smith is excellent -- adopting an accent and a swagger and an artist's obsession -- but everything that happens around him serves to mute his work. Perhaps worse, no one seemed to realize that this particular progression of events makes Mapplethorpe look like a highly unpleasant person, and that it might be distasteful to spend the movie's 102 minutes with him.

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