A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Nappily Ever After is based on a series of books by Trisha R. Thomas. At the center of the sometimes funny, sometimes poignant film is a seemingly successful, young African American woman whose values have been shaped by a very traditional mother for whom appearance is all, and by her hair, which is a metaphor for her life. As Violet Jones stumbles along a path toward independence, self-confidence, and real appreciation of her uniqueness, she makes mistakes, recovers, then falters again. Sexuality and sensuality are integral to the plot. While there's no nudity, Violet and her partner are in bed in several scenes with kissing, passionate foreplay, and some carefully shot sexual activity. Viewers can also expect some profanity, including "f--k," "s--t," "a--holes," and "hell." Characters drink in social situations, and in one instance, the heroine becomes very drunk. Though Violet's relationship with her hair is a singularly African American experience, the underlying issues in the film -- what it takes to become a fully realized person -- should resonate with a broad audience.
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What's the story?
Violet Jones (Sanaa Lathan), a successful advertising manager, is all about her hair in NAPPILY EVER AFTER. Why wouldn't she be? Ever since she was a child her mom, Pauletta (Lynn Whitfield), has been straightening and preening, straightening and admiring, just waiting for her daughter to attract "the right one." It's all going according to plan. Clint (Ricky Whittle), a handsome doctor, is expected to propose at a surprise birthday party. Unfortunately, "tragedy" strikes on the big day, when Violet's long, straight locks are drenched by two kids washing a car. That one incident sets a series of life-changing experiences and realizations in motion. First, she meets Zoe (Daria Johns), a precocious little girl who loves her own nappy hair and calls Violet on her pretension. Then, the fragile woman is devastated when the Tiffany-boxed gift she receives isn't a ring after all. A fight, a breakup, a bump at work, and it's clear that the smooth path she and her mom laid out for her isn't going to happen. In "chapters" called "Straightened," "Weave," "Blonde," "Bald," and "New Growth," Violet is forced to revise her plans, as well as everything she thought she knew about herself and her hair.
Is it any good?
Two stellar performances by Sanaa Lathan as Violet and young Daria Johns as Zoe, along with sharp commentary about culture, identity, and hair, bring a fresh, original sheen to a familiar story. Director Haifaa Al-Mansour (best known for the stunning Wadja) and a strong adaptation from the book provide Lathan with all she needs to deliver an assured, brave performance. Daria Johns is just wonderful. Featured characters are also solid, with Lynn Whitfield able to transcend the typical overbearing mother into an almost sympathetic character. Nappily Ever After is a welcome addition to Netflix's building library of accessible romantic comedies. While the movie may have special resonance for African American audiences, it should appeal to all fans of sparking romantic fare.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the key elements that make Nappily Ever After, which mostly portrays an African American culture, resonate for a wide audience. Did you identify with Violet? Her relationship with her mother? Her issues with the men in her life? At work? How does this film confirm that while we're all different, we're all the same too?
How does Nappily Ever After treat Violet's drunkenness? What consequences did she pay for her behavior?
Find out the meaning of the literary term "metaphor." In what ways was Violet's hair a metaphor for her life? How was the scene in which Violet shaves her head a metaphor for her shedding her entire value system?
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