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 movie will probably bore younger teens, since it's paced for the more mature Woody Allen fan. The plot turns on discovering the identity of a serial killer, although it's treated lightly -- if that's possible (it is a comedy...). There's an off-screen murder signaled by a woman's scream. Another near-murder involves a fight on a small boat. And still another death occurs off screen, a car crash signaled by a loud noise. Characters lie, break into locked rooms, and pilfer objects. Characters drink and smoke cigarettes.
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What's the story?
After agreeing to step into a magic box during a performance by Sid -- aka the Great Splendini -- (Woody Allen), American journalism student, Sondra (Scarlett Johansson) gets a tip from the ghost of a late crime reporter named Joe (Ian McShane). Sondra decides to investigate, and attracts the suspect, an aristocrat named Peter (Hugh Jackman), by pretending to drown in a swimming pool. Within days, Sondra has fallen in love with Peter, and starts doubting the evidence she's been finding that points to his guilt. Her affair inspires Sid's jealousy, as a protective "paternal" figure. When he warns her that she shouldn't be pretending to be someone else -- namely, "Jade Spence" -- in order to solve the case and jumpstart her reporter's career, she observes dryly, "Your whole life is a deception. You're a magician."
Is it any good?
If this diverting yarn has a theme, deception might be it. Sondra deceives Peter, Sid deceives everyone except Sondra, and Peter might be deceiving both of them. "I don't like this whole thing," Sondra moans. "I don't like the whole process." As the movie considers how deception drives Joe, Sid, and Sondra -- not to mention the killer -- it also ponders processes of reading as well as performing, as these allow self-deception. And this sounds like an insight.
Angry when Sondra resists his version of the truth, Sid points out, "Even a great reporter can be wrong." Though it takes her a while, Sondra does learn to admit her mistakes. The men who surround her, however, never do.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the father-daughter relationship that develops between Sid and Sondra: How does he try to protect her and how does she resist his advice even as she solicits his help in pursuing her "scoop"? How does Peter look like the "perfect" boyfriend, and how is his appearance deceptive?
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