My First Mister

Movie review by
Tracy Moore, Common Sense Media
My First Mister Movie Poster Image
Offbeat friendship is provocative, dark but sweet.
  • R
  • 2001
  • 109 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Value in unlikely friendships; loyalty; trying to connect with family in spite of differences; forging connections with others before it's too late; respect for differences; intergenerational understanding.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Jennifer is a complex character: smart, curious, and sensitive but also sarcastic, petulant, depressed, and morbid. She routinely does things for shock value, including using piercings and a shroud of black clothing to alienate others. But underneath she longs for human connection, sees the good in people, and makes deep connections to others when she gets out of her shell. Randall is a well-meaning, supportive older man who sees a lost teenager and reaches out to her. Jennifer's parents are portrayed as well-intentioned but oblivious.

Violence

Some self-harm involving cutting or pricking with a safety pin, with blood or scars and scabs shown. Morbid poetry using smeared blood. A man endures a long-term battle with leukemia, including some hospital scenes and a collapse while running. A woman is said to have died in a car crash. A man's grave is shown, indicating his passing.

Sex

Sexually suggestive references from 19-year-old Jennifer, who expresses that she wants a lover, admits she masturbates, thought she was a lesbian, asks a man if he wants to sleep with her, imagines a man naked in a Speedo, and dances provocatively with a woman, grabbing her rear. A man and woman kiss in a hospital bed.

Language

"F--k" used throughout by teens and adults; "a--hole," "bitchin'," "d--k," "damn."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Dad smokes a joint.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that My First Mister is a comedy/drama about a depressed 19-year-old girl's unlikely friendship with a 49-year-old man. It's a morbid film filled with teen angst (including dark poetry using smeared blood) and provocative references to sex and death. There's a struggle with long-term illness and the death of a few close adults. There's some self-harm involving cutting or pricking with a safety pin, with blood or scars and scabs shown. Expect strong use of profanity throughout (mostly "f--k"), and a father smokes a joint in one scene, but overall you'll find very strongly positive messages about connecting with others, intergenerational relationships, and the importance of valuing family. Very heavy themes, complex characters, and mature language make this film best for older teens.

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What's the story?

Jennifer (Leelee Sobieski) is obsessed with dark poetry, wearing black, piercings, and anything involving alienation from her family or society at large. So when she spies Randall (Albert Brooks), an uptight, square retail employee dressing mannequins at the mall, she's intrigued -- plus, she needs a job if she's going to get her own place. What begins as pestering and conflict turns into an unlikely friendship when the two realize they have more in common than they ever imagined.

Is it any good?

MY FIRST MISTER is about an unlikely friendship, and the key word here is "unlikely"; it takes a while before audiences will believe these two could ever hit it off. Though anyone who has made an unexpected acquaintanceship at an odd job will realize it's entirely possible. But what feels a bit contrived about this over-the-top angsty teen in one outrageous pose after the next and this predictably square retail employee soon finds an organic, natural pace as the two open up, give back and forth, and realize they're both very lonely, disconnected people who long to be understood.

Here is where the heavy themes come in, and there are plenty: disconnects from family, divorced parents, past cheating, a ruined marriage, and a terminal illness, as well as a long-lost son. There are some cutting, casual references to death, sex, and the kind of faux maturity teens are always putting on to pretend to be sophisticated, such as references to taking lovers and trying out lesbianism. But if those can be endured with discussion or the appropriate sense of humor, there are some very sweet, sad-tinged but ultimately hopeful messages at the core of this movie about making connections, honoring family (whatever that may mean for you), and sticking by your people -- people who may not, at first glance, even seem like your people until we give them a real chance.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about My First Mister's portrayal of teen angst. Do you think it's over-the-top compared to other films about the darker side of the teenage experience? Why, or why not?

  • How are themes of alienation addressed in the film? Why is each of these characters alienated? And how do they all forge connections?

  • What do you think is wrong with Jennifer? Is her experience normal for teenagers, or is something deeper going on? If so, what?

Movie details

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