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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Promised Land is a drama about big companies and farming communities, big money, and environmental troubles that's rated R primarily for strong language (including several uses of "f--k"). It's told through two main characters: a well-meaning company man and a grass-roots activist, neither of whom are what they seem. It's a movie filled with issues and ideas, and it would make for good discussions with teens. In addition to the swearing, there's a scene with strong drinking (followed by a hangover), as well as one fight, some flirting, and a little product placement.
What's the story?
Two representatives from a big natural gas corporation -- Steve Butler (Matt Damon) and Sue Thomason (Frances McDormand) -- arrive in a small farming community offering to buy the rights to extract natural gas from the earth. The farmers, savaged by the poor economy, are torn between taking the cash and risking the damage that the drilling (known as "fracking") could do. Matters are complicated when a grass-roots activist, Dustin Noble (John Krasinski), shows up to oppose them. At the same time, Steve finds himself developing feelings for a local schoolteacher (Rosemarie DeWitt). Will Steve figure out the right thing to do?
Is it any good?
A unique group of talents came together for this issue movie. Acclaimed author Dave Eggers wrote the original story, and actors Damon and Krasinski wrote the screenplay. Gus Van Sant directed, 15 years after directing another Damon screenplay, Good Will Hunting. The result is pleasantly low-key and never seems preachy or angry. But PROMISED LAND also raises more issues than it can reasonably tackle.
Specifically, it brings up the complex question of what farmers are supposed to do in such a terrible economy; should they risk damaging the environment in exchange for financial security? Yet Promised Land turns its focus to Steve's personal journey and resolves that, leaving the farmers on their own. Van Sant gives this one a more cursory touch than usual, recalling Good Will Hunting and Finding Forrester. But the well-rounded characters -- especially McDormand's -- make it enjoyable along the way.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what the farmers should do. Should they take the money or look for a better solution? Is there a "right" answer to this problem?
What's the right thing for the main character, Steve Butler, to do? What does he learn over the course of Promised Land? Is he a role model?
How does the movie depict drinking? Why do the characters drink? Are there realistic consequences?