Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Passion Movie Poster Image
No worthy role models in De Palma's erotic thriller.
  • R
  • 2013
  • 102 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages
Although the movie focuses on powerful female executives, the message is that they're still ensconced in a world of backstabbing, revenge, and one-upsmanship, not to mention sex and alcohol.
Positive Role Models & Representations
Characters rarely treat one another with respect or courtesy, unless there's something underhanded involved. Though Christine and Isabelle have worked their way up the corporate ladder and into positions of power, they're not very admirable. Their behavior is mostly cruel and manipulative.
There's one murder in the movie, with neck-slicing and some brief spurting blood. A car crashes into both a post and a soda machine in a parking garage, and the driver throws an angry tantrum. A very brief scene walking through prison shows some women taunting each other and fighting. Also tense conversations, threats, etc.
The two main female characters are sleeping with the same man. Viewers see sex scenes featuring both pairings. One of them involves masks and heavy breathing, while the other is more graphic, with a naked breast on display and the man shown thrusting from behind. (He shoots a video of the encounter, and it's shown later on.) The characters also shoot a sexy commercial involving a woman wearing tight jeans and men ogling her as she walks by. Sex toys are shown. A character answers her door topless, but her breasts aren't shown. Viewers see brief images of centerfolds and nudie pictures hanging on a wall. There's also some sex talk and innuendo.
Language isn't constant but includes a uses of "f--k," plus "s--t," "c--t," and "bitch." "Ass" is also used a few times.
The Apple computer logo is shown more than once, in key scenes. The characters are working on an ad campaign for Panasonic, and this logo is shown a few times. Stolichnaya brand vodka is shown. A Coca-Cola machine is important in one scene.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Three of the main characters drink a great deal and are shown drunk several times. One of the main characters smokes regularly, and another takes some kind of prescription pills, though it's not clear what these are. (They're also part of the plot.) She apparently also takes sleeping pills.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Passion is an erotic thriller from director Brian De Palma. There's one murder, with neck-slicing and some spurting blood, as well as some other scenes of simmering violence. But sex is the biggest issue; both female leads are sleeping with the same man, and the sex scenes are fairly strong, with some nudity (breasts). Various women are shown kissing. Language isn't constant but includes a few uses of "f--k," plus "c--t," "bitch," and "s--t." Several brands are shown, including Apple, Panasonic, and Coca-Cola. Characters drink a great deal and are sometimes drunk. One main character smokes cigarettes, and the other pops prescription pills. Although the movie focuses on powerful female executives, they're cruel and manipulative and can't be considered positive role models for teens.

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What's the story?

High-level advertising executive Christine Stanford (Rachel McAdams) cultivates a close relationship with her assistant, Isabelle James (Noomi Rapace). But when Isabelle comes up with a great idea for an ad campaign, Christine blatantly steals and takes credit for it. Though Isabelle isn't entirely innocent, herself: She's secretly sleeping with Christine's boyfriend (Paul Anderson). As tension in the workplace increases, so does the subtle one-upsmanship between the women. It grows to public humiliation and blackmail, and, eventually, murder. Is Isabelle responsible, or are there even more sinister forces at work?

Is it any good?

For adventurous moviegoers, Brian De Palma's intense style and charged atmosphere, as well as old-fashioned suspense, will be enough to entertain. One of the most brutally powerful of all American directors, De Palma is also one of the most despised. And, as with his last several movies, PASSION is bound to be misunderstood and dismissed.
Remaking a 2010 French movie that starred Ludivine Sagnier and Kristin Scott Thomas, De Palma takes a relatively thin and somewhat nonsensical story and gives it everything he has. He uses heavy blues, dark shadowy slashes, split-screen, nightmares, and sudden shocks, all for maximum effect. Much like Hitchcock and Polanski -- to whom De Palma is often, unfavorably compared -- this veteran filmmaker seemingly has a plan for every shot. Nothing feels arbitrary or uncertain. Though it doesn't quite rank with De Palma's best, Passion is far better than the ordinary.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Passion's portrays sex. In this movie, is sex about love or about power? What's the difference? Parents, talk to your teens about your own values regarding sex and relationships.
  • Are Christine and Isabelle strong female characters? Are they interesting? Are they positive role models? Why or why not?
  • Why do you think these characters spend so much time drinking and smoking? What's the appeal? Are there any consequences?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love thrills

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