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Scent of a Woman
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 R-rated movie includes strong language, and one of the main characters is an alcoholic who constantly drinks Jack Daniels. There is talk of sex, but no sex scenes or nudity. There are some physical altercations, but no blood or gore. One character is suicidal and points a gun at his teen caretaker. In one brief scene, high school prep students are shown smoking cigarettes. Spoiled, rich teens play an expensive prank on their headmaster, and then pressure peers to lie for them.
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What's the story?
In order to make some extra money, prep school teen Charlie (Chris O'Donnell) takes a job caring for Frank "The Colonel" Slade over Thanksgiving holiday. Charlie wants to back out of the job as soon as he meets the cantankerous man, but he's too nice to say no to the colonel's harried niece who obviously needs a vacation. A tough, aging ex-military man, the colonel no longer has control of his life due to blindness. He's bitter, angry, drinks Jack Daniels like it's water, and lives in his niece's converted garage because his other relatives can't stand him. Charlie has his own problems – for one, he's a small-town teen attending a fancy prep school on scholarship. He's also witnessed his bratty "friends" committing a crime, and after the holidays he'll be forced to rat on them, accept a bribe from an authority figure, or be expelled. Charlie's life-changing adventure begins when the colonel drags him to New York City for a weekend of indulgences, after which the colonel declares to his young caretaker, "I will blow my brains out with a gun." As the weekend wears on, Charlie and the colonel slowly come to understand each other.
Is it any good?
While there's little violence overall, Scent of a Woman is intense -- Al Pacino gives a powerful performance that's on the verge of frightening as a very angry, depressed man. The performance earned Pacino his first Oscar.
Because of the colonel's intense nature, and his suicidal thoughts, the film is best suited to older teens, and some parts may be too disturbing for more sensitive teens. There are many good messages here (responsibility, caring for the disabled and down-and-out, anti-suicide, the importance of friends and family, and more), but the film also shows the stark reality of adult depression and alcoholism. The colonel pulls his life together with Charlie's help, and repays that kindness in a big way.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the reasons the colonel is so angry and depressed. How did Charlie get over his first impressions of the colonel, and how did he try to help him want to keep on living? Why was the speech that the colonel gave at the prep school so powerful? What do you think Charlie learned from the colonel, and vice versa? Do you think the colonel is an accurate portrayal of an addict? How is the colonel like or unlike addicts depicted in other movies?
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