A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this very mature indie film, which is based on a true story, is steeped in amoral and sexual behavior among the idle rich -- culminating in a sexual relationship between a mother and her son. The movie unflinchingly depicts raw, uncomfortable moments of sexual behavior and contains nudity (including full-frontal female), same-sex encounters, implied underage sex, and more. There's also plenty of language, and some violence, as well as drinking, smoking, and drug use. Teens who know star Julianne Moore's terrific acting work from bigger films like Children of Men and The Hours may be intrigued to see her here, but it's an edgy, uncomfortable film that's definitely not meant for kids of any age.
What's the story?
SAVAGE GRACE tells the true story of the wealthy Baekeland family's rise and fall, following the relationship between British plastics heir Brooks Baekeland (Stephen Dillane), his American wife Barbara Daly Baekeland (Julianne Moore), and their son, Antony (Eddie Redmayne). As the cracks between Brooks and Barbara widen, shattering their marriage, Antony becomes his mother's best friend, confidant, and ... lover. It's a desperate kind of consolation, and it can't stand for long.
Is it any good?
While Savage Grace is occasionally hard to watch, Moore keeps you riveted. She can shift between kind care and venomous contempt with razor sharpness, and yet she always makes you believe in Barbara Daly Baekeland as a person. The other cast members are strong (Dillane especially, nailing both the shine of class and the rot of weakness in Brooks Baekeland), but they can't compare to Moore's shining, disturbing, and compelling performance. Director Tom Kalin previously helmed Swoon, which was based on the infamous Leopold and Loeb murders -- another true tale of sexual desire and murderous behavior. Savage Grace is tough to take, but mature viewers who appreciate modern film acting at its finest will want to seek it out just for Moore's performance.
At first glance -- as the privileged-but-miserable Baekelands feud, fuss, and fight in their marriage, with ugly words spoken in beautiful rooms -- Savage Grace seems like a big-screen version of one of those guilty-pleasure tales of globe-trotting, bed-hopping, and bad behavior among the wealthy that you find tucked near the back of every issue of Vanity Fair. As the film unfolds, it becomes less of a movie (we know how things are going to turn out, after all) and more of a showcase for Moore, who's one of America's greatest living actresses.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about whether the Baekeland family's power and privilege mean they don't have to follow conventional rules of society. Is it true that the rich are different? Is that a good thing? How do movies and TV shows tend to depict the wealthy? Do you think they're like that in real life? Families can also discuss what a film like this -- with its tough subject matter and unflinching discussion of sexual behavior -- is trying to do. Is the film an exploration of real human behavior or a salacious tale of sex and death intended for shock value?
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