A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Perfect Sisters is a 2014 based-on-actual-events movie about two teenage sisters who murder their alcoholic mother. The events leading up to the murder are shown in graphic-enough detail: The mother is an alcoholic frequently shown drunk at all hours of the day; her latest in a string of abusive boyfriends is shown slapping her son hard in the face and also making strong sexual advances toward one of the girls; and the girls are free to go out at all hours of the night, going to parties where they drink alcohol and smoke marijuana. To kill their mother, the girls are shown giving their mother vodka and pills, then taking her into the tub and drowning her. Also, there is a quirky dark-humored sequence entitled "How to Kill Your Mother" in which different ways of killing one's mother are discussed. The teen girls walk in on their mom almost having sex with her boyfriend in the living room. A young boy is shown playing with his mother's vibrator like it's a child's toy while she sits next to him intoxicated. Frequent profanity: "f--k," "s--t," "p---y," "slut bag."
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What's the story?
Sandra (Abigail Breslin) and Beth (Georgie Henley) are teenage sisters whose alcoholic mother (Mira Sorvino) is moving them once again to a new apartment with their younger brother. After making an effort to get her life back on track, their mother descends once again into alcoholism and irresponsible parenting, dating yet another boyfriend who is physically abusive to her and her son and who makes sexual advances toward Beth. Faced with an intolerable home life -- especially when their mother decides they're going to move again, this time into the home of her abusive boyfriend -- Sandra and Beth, with the help of Beth's boyfriend, Justin, and their new friend, popular "mean girl" Ashley, begin to plot ways in which they can end their mother's life. When Sandra and Beth actually go through with it -- feeding their mom vodka and pills, then drowning her in the tub and making it look like an accident -- they believe they're finally free to live with their kind aunt. But as gossip begins to swirl around them in their high school -- and Beth in particular begins to feel deep guilt and remorse, which she tries to drown out through drugs and alcohol -- their perfect plan begins to fall apart, especially as the authorities dig deeper and search the Internet trail they've left along the way.
Is it any good?
Solid acting prevents PERFECT SISTERS from being worse than it is. Abigail Breslin, Georgie Henley, and Mira Sorvino take an over-the-top and melodramatic screenplay and turn in credible performances, all things considered. However, the secondary characters -- the "mean girl," the "sensitive emo boy," the "kind but stern aunt," "the nice boy who never gets the girl" -- are clichés straight out of pretty much every teen movie from the last 20 years, to say nothing of the overlong teen party scenes in which far too much time is spent on drinking games, pot smoking, and over-served partygoers stumbling around.
Although the movie goes to great lengths to show the horrible home life of these girls, it also inexplicably vacillates between wanting to be a "true crime" movie and a "teen life" movie. Scenes of alcoholic despair and graphic physical abuse are interspersed with attempts at quirkiness with an interlude called "How to Kill Your Mother." Such awkward attempts at trying to appeal to teenagers take away from the actual story. Overall, this is an interesting and very tragic story based on real events, but these real events get drowned out at the expense of attempts at cleverness and movie trickery that at times feels exploitative.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how adolescence is shown in this movie. Which parts of this movie feel real to what teenagers experience both inside and outside of high school, and what parts seem cliché or overdone?
This movie was based on a book based on true events. What do you see as the challenges in turning a book into a movie, especially one based on a true story?
Which parts of this movie seem true, and which parts seem embellished or exaggerated for the sake of the story?
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