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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Demonstrates how hard work and perseverance, as well as staying true to your own vision, can lead to success. But shows that success can also come with iffy behavior, sickness, drugs, many other downsides.
Positive Role Models
As portrayed here, Mapplethorpe is highly unpleasant, doesn't think twice about treating people around him badly or rudely, so long as he gets his way.
Violence & Scariness
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Graphic nudity and sexual situations, mostly in still photographs. Full-frontal male nudity. Partial female nudity (bottoms and breasts). Kissing. Couples (both opposite-sex and same-sex) lie in bed together, kissing, presumably after sex. Mapplethorpe has multiple sexual partners. Quick scene inside a men's sex club shows men in bondage, leather, and sex-related gestures. Other sexual situations (man searching for sex with a prostitute, brief spanking, etc.).
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Very strong language, with many uses of "f--k," "motherf----r," "s--t," "c--k," "ass," "d--k," "goddamn," and "God" (as an exclamation).
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Heavy drug use: acid, cocaine, pot, etc. Main character encourages younger brother to try cocaine. Cigarette smoking. Wine with lunch.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Mapplethorpe is a very mature biopic about photographer Robert Mapplethorpe (1946-1989), who became famous for his black-and-white photos of celebrities, flowers, and male erotica. It has very strong, graphic sexual material, mostly in the form of photographs, but there's also full-frontal male nudity, bare breasts/bottoms, many sexual situations (both same-sex and opposite-sex), and characters having multiple partners. Language is also strong, with uses of "f--k," "c--k," "s--t," and more. Drug use is prevalent; characters drop acid and snort cocaine (Mapplethorpe encourages his younger brother to try cocaine), as well as smoke pot and cigarettes and drink socially. There's some arguing and tantrum-throwing, but otherwise violence isn't an issue. Former Doctor Who Matt Smith is terrific in the lead role, but the rest of the movie is flat, uninspired, and frequently unpleasant. Note: This review is for the original version of the film; an extended director's cut is also available that may include additional content not covered here. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
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.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.