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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
The movie champions Gertrude Bell but is slightly unclear regarding her achievements. The closing credits crawl suggests that while she did her best to honor her Arabic friends, her English colleagues may have undermined her efforts.
Positive Role Models
The movie serves as an introduction to Gertrude Bell, who insisted on being her own woman/person in every situation and refused to be treated as anything less. She chose a life of education, exploration, discovery, and achievement over a life of family, which may be troubling to some viewers but inspirational to others. Either way, she's a fascinating figure, and the movie could inspire viewers to conduct further reading and research.
Violence & Scariness
Brief guns and shooting; main character slightly wounded (bloody scratch). A man talks about hunting and shooting elephants. The main character is held captive for a brief time. Goat heads shown (as food).
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
The main character's breasts show through a wet gown while she bathes. She passionately kisses two men. Sex is suggested (nothing graphic shown). A man invites her for "fornication" in a barn.
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A use of "bitch."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Social drinking. Characters pass a bottle of scotch; main character wakes up with a painful hangover. Mention of "hashish."
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Queen of the Desert is director Werner Herzog's biographical drama about Gertrude Bell, an English writer and explorer. There's some violence -- including guns and shooting, with a bloody scratch shown. The main character (who's played by Nicole Kidman) is held hostage for a brief time, there's discussion of hunting elephants, and goat heads (used for food) are shown. Bell's breasts are visible as she bathes while wearing a white gown. She also kisses two men, and sex is suggested but not shown. Another man invites her for "fornication" in a barn. She drinks from a bottle of scotch and wakes up with a painful hangover. Other social drinking is shown, and "hashish" is mentioned. The word "bitch" is used once. Though the movie is beautiful, and the main character is inspirational, the storytelling is lifeless and dull. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
It's rather confounding that one of the world's boldest, most curious filmmakers could take a bold, curious subject like Gertrude Bell and make such a dull, inert (if pretty) movie about her. But Werner Herzog's Queen of the Desert sat, unreleased, for two years after poor early reviews, and it's easy to see why. In spite of the talented cast, Herzog's great eye for outdoor compositions, lush widescreen cinematography, and a dreamy score -- perhaps in an effort to recall the story's close cousin, Lawrence of Arabia -- the movie simply doesn't move.
Bell is painted as a fearless, endlessly curious woman, and it's difficult not to admire her, but aside from getting her heart broken by two clueless men, not much of consequence happens to her from scene to scene. In one sequence, she's held prisoner for several weeks at the whim of an Emir, but she doesn't look any the worse for wear after she gives him a withering comment and walks out. Many scenes are set up -- in one, she receives a magnificent "stolen" horse as a gift -- and then dropped (she trades it for camels, offscreen, with no drama or consequences). Perhaps someday, Ms. Bell will receive a movie worthy of her legacy.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.