On Golden Pond

 
Valuable lessons in loving one's family members.
  • Review Date: September 1, 2005
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 1981
  • Running Time: 105 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

nstead of talking calmly through their problems, family members constantly swear at each other.

Violence

An older character has a heart attack.

Sex

A talk about whether the middle-aged daughter and new boyfriend are going to sleep together. Skinny dipping, but nothing is shown.

Language

The Thayers give the finger to a rude speedboat operator. Moderate bathroom and sexually themed swearing.

Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this movie's insights into family and aging may be too mature for young viewers, but they will enjoy the warm relationship between the rebellious boy and the grumpy grandpa. Parents should also know that the grandpa character suffers a heart attack.

What's the story?

Retired professor Norman Thayer (Henry Fonda) and his wife Ethel (Katharine Hepburn) spend summers at Golden Pond, but this year they'll come to know their grown daughter, a teen visitor, and each other a little better. Obsessed with aging, Norman finds himself getting lost on walks and scarcely able to drive his boat anymore. To celebrate Norman's eightieth birthday, daughter Chelsea (Jane Fonda) arrives with new boyfriend Bill (Dabney Coleman) and Bill's rebellious teen son in tow. As always, Norman and Chelsea fight constantly. When Chelsea and Bill leave for Europe, they leave Billy Jr. behind. Initially resentful, young Billy comes to enjoy the simple pleasures -- mostly fishing -- with Norman. When Chelsea returns, now married, will she manage to make up with her father before it's too late?

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

If kids can make it past these languid first minutes of sunsets on dappled water, they might find the rich relationships between family members of ON GOLDEN POND rewarding. Some older kids may find it a decidedly unhip affair for solo watching -- and it's certainly not one they'll seek out with their friends -- but it does make for good family viewing. Both kids and parents can relate to the intergenerational conflict and the way the story manages to resolve family strife. And all ages will take pleasure from the wisdom the old folks pass onto the youngsters and, conversely, the zest children enkindle in the old.

Katharine Hepburn and Henry Fonda both won acting Oscars for their work here. Hepburn is radiant as the sprightly matriarch, with her wide smile and warbling cry of "Nooorman." Her terror when Norman is felled by his angina attack is genuinely moving. Fonda is appropriately crusty and there is a touch of poignancy in the fact that the actor's real-life daughter Jane plays his character's estranged daughter. But few will muster much sympathy for Jane Fonda's whiny, self-centered character.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about why movies so rarely feature actors who are visibly aged, especially women. Why do you think that is? How do you feel when you see old people up on the screen?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:December 4, 1981
DVD release date:May 19, 1998
Cast:Henry Fonda, Jane Fonda, Katharine Hepburn
Director:Mark Rydell
Studio:Live Entertainment
Genre:Drama
Run time:105 minutes
MPAA rating:PG
MPAA explanation:thematic elements

This review of On Golden Pond was written by

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Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Adult Written byMom_and_Son February 10, 2009
age 13+
 

Slighly Depressing for young ones, Really depressing for older ones. Was rated PG in the 80's, HA

Norman Thayer Jr. and his wife Ethyll have had a rocky relationship with their daughter Chelsea but agree to keep Chelsea's boyfriend's son, Billy for a month while Chelsea and her boyfriend go to Europe. This movie was made in the 1980's and was rated PG but has the content for a mild PG-13 movie. Talks about sex, skinny dipping and even the 13-year old use bulls--t repeatedly. Good message for dysfunctional families.
Teen, 15 years old Written byNo Name, for real. February 2, 2013
age 11+
 

Great movie has lots of swearing, but kids can handle it

What other families should know
Too much swearing
Parent of a 13 year old Written byTsion June 20, 2009
age 12+
 

Moving and Well-Acted, but HEAVY on the Language...

ON GOLDEN POND really is a cute, charming story, and it is perfect for adult and teen entertainment. However, just because it has a moving, family-friendly story doesn't mean it has moving, family-friendly content. Aside from a brief, awkward conversation about whether a father-in-law wants his daughter and her beau to sleep together (the father plays dumb and makes the fiance uncomfortable), there isn't any sexual content. A cut on the head makes up the violence category. Doesn't sound that bad so far, does it? Well, besides those two mild areas, there is a constant stream of profanity in the film. Even if I had bothered to keep track (which would have been very difficult), I would have come up with 40+ instances each of "d**n", "a*s", "h*ll", and "s**t". Sure, there are no F-words, but profanity probably makes up 1/3 of the dialogue in this film. Don't say you weren't warned.
What other families should know
Too much swearing

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