Promised Land



Low-key "issues" drama has some strong language, drinking.
  • Review Date: December 20, 2012
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2012
  • Running Time: 106 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The movie's message isn't entirely easy to nail down, but it will launch some good discussions. One theme is about the debate between farms staying true to their roots or giving in and accepting cash from a corporation. Another theme is about whether a person should remain loyal to the corporation for which he works -- or do the right thing.

Positive role models

Steve is highly imperfect, but he learns many lessons. He works for a huge company and believes he's doing the right thing, but eventually he learns that there may be other answers just as valid. Eventually he comes to a crossroads wherein he must decide between his job and telling the truth.


A brief fight in a bar; the character sustains some minor wounds to the face.


Two adults flirt and go on a date.


"F--k" is used many times. Other words include "suck it," "a--hole," "hell," "s--t," "hell," "a--hole," "damn," "oh my God," "goddamn," and more.


A Pepsi machine is shown. A pack of Trident gum is shown. The main character has a Hewlett-Packard (HP) computer.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

The main character has a night of strong drinking (beer and shots) and wakes up, hung over, in a comical way. He keeps returning to the bar for more drinks throughout the movie, but a drinking problem isn't implied.

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.

Families can talk 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?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:December 28, 2012
DVD release date:April 23, 2013
Cast:Frances McDormand, John Krasinski, Matt Damon, Rosemarie DeWitt
Director:Gus Van Sant
Studio:Focus Features
Run time:106 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:language

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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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Parent Written by915071 May 30, 2013
Teen, 13 years old Written byThe Cheap Seats June 20, 2013

What's Your Price?

Promised Land covers ground on an important and controversial topic (natural gas) which doesn't really appeal to teens and the future adults. The only people really interested to see this are probably more middle-aged women. It will probably be forgotten, though, in a year with films of more epic proportions. There is some language and drinking but mild amounts of each and the f-word is used sparingly. B.
What other families should know
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Written byAnonymous March 2, 2015

Matt Damon at his most dramatic

My rating:R for language


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