Pollock

Movie review by
Nell Minow, Common Sense Media
Pollock Movie Poster Image
Wonderful movie, but for adults and older teens.
  • R
  • 2000
  • 122 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Violence

Scary drunken car ride, fatal crash (offscreen).

Sex

Sexual references and situations, brief but explicit sexual encounter.

Language

Very strong language.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Severe.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this movie contains a lot of mature material, including very strong language and sexual references and situations. A highly unsatisfactory sexual encounter between Pollock and Guggenheim is shown fairly explicitly. Characters drink, smoke, abuse drugs, and engage in self-destructive behavior. Pollock's drunk driving with the passengers screaming is shown, though not the crash that killed him. Family members treat each other badly, which may be upsetting for some viewers.

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What's the story?

POLLOCK, a labor of love from director/star Ed Harris, shows us the artist as a hugely talented but yowling id, all hunger and impulse. We see that both art and acceptance (and therefore fame) matter a great deal to Jackson Pollock. And we see that when the two collide, art wins out. Art critic Clement Greenberg (Jeffrey Tambor) champions of Pollock's work, making him the darling of the art world. His approval means a lot to Pollock, professionally and artistically. When Greenberg criticizes the color in one painting at a dinner party, Pollock runs to the studio to drag it into the room and takes out a huge tube of paint to squirt onto it. But even his need for approval and his self- destructiveness and spite are not enough to allow him to mar a painting that he thinks is right.

Is it any good?

Harris gets a lot of the details right, including the dazzling spectacle of watching Pollock create the paintings. Great care was taken with the movie's art direction. A magnificent lobster-decorated dress worn by Pollock's patron Peggy Guggenheim (Amy Madigan) is an exact replica of one she really wore. Much of the movie takes place on location at Pollock's home in rural Long Island, and it all feels very genuine and authentic.

Harris, Marcia Gay Harden, and Madigan are all outstanding, and the film, while flawed, is engrossing and impressive. But we never really see why Pollock was important or what motivated him. He is boorish, selfish, conceited, and, most of all, needy. And there are a few cringe-inducing expositional moments, as when Pollock's wife (Marcia Gay Harden) exclaims on seeing his first dribble painting, "This isn't Cubism, Jackson, because you're not breaking down the figure into multiple views!" That does not do much either for those who are familiar with Pollock's work or want to learn more of the technique. Pollock, who wisely resisted explanations and categorization, deserves something more subtle and complex. There are moments when this film gives it to us, as when Pollock makes his famous statement, "I do not use the accident. I deny the accident."

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why people become passionate about art and how art is affected by the surrounding commerce and culture. Why did Krasner give up her own art to take care of Pollock? Why were the views of Guggenheim and Greenberg so important? Why aren't Pollock's paintings just considered scribbles? Are there any painters today who are as important a part of the cultural landscape as Pollock was when he was featured in Life Magazine? Or are our new cultural icons working in different mediums?

Movie details

For kids who love true stories

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