A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this movie has some strong language. Characters drink and smoke. Helen's smoking, imitated by one of the children, is evidence of her carefree lifestyle; we see her wearing a nicotine patch after she has to begin to be more responsible. Similarly, as the fun aunt she approves of a fake ID for an underage girl; as the parent, she does not. And before she has the children, she has casual sex, but afterward she is ready for a more complete relationship. An underage couple plan to have sex but are stopped in time. Some members of the audience will find the movie's portrayal of public school to be unfair. A strength of the movie is friendship between diverse characters.
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What's the story?
Helen (Kate Hudson), a young woman who thinks she has everything she wants, including a glamorous job in a modeling agency. She gets to go to parties and wear chic clothes and be the cool aunt to her sisters' children, the fun one who thinks that fake IDs are great and shows that you never really have to grow up. But then Helen's sister and brother-in-law are killed in an accident and it turns out that they left their three children not to the older, stable, potpourri-loving earth mother sister Jenny (Joan Cusack) but to Helen. Helen is willing, if a bit shell-shocked. But for the first time she has taken on some problems that can't be solved with a dazzling smile. The three children show her how messy, exhausting, painful, more exhausting, expensive, scary, difficult, and then even more exhausting life can be. She will think of it as an unbearable burden. She will have to leave Manhattan for Brooklyn and take time from her job for an emergency involving shoelace-tying. She will make mistakes and let people down. She will worry that she is not up to the challenge. And she will get a chance to find out whether she is.
Is it any good?
This latest take on a familiar setup is not a romantic comedy, as suggested by the trailers and commercials. RAISING HELEN is more of a light drama with some comic and tragic moments. It has a solid script and a strong cast led by the deliciously twinkly Kate Hudson, with Helen Mirrin as her boss, Joan Cusack and Felicity Huffman as her sisters, Sakina Jaffrey as one tough bat-wielding mother of a neighbor, and John Corbett providing guidance, support, and some romantic interest as the Lutheran pastor who is principal of the school. That puts it way ahead of garbage like Cop and a Half and Curly Sue.
Hudson is fine as Helen in the early scenes, enjoying her own deliciousness as mistress of her universe. What's more fun to watch here is the way Hudson holds up as Helen's world falls apart around her. Helen isn't sure she can give or deserve the kind of affection required by the children and by the pastor. Helen must also be willing not to be completely loved every single second. Hudson shows us as an actress that is a lesson she has already learned.
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