A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Face your fears. Try new things to shake things up. Be brave. Don't let others dictate what you want to do with your life.
Positive Role Models
Even though Thomas is in a rut, he takes on a challenge and follows it through to the end. He believes in himself more and more throughout his ordeal and gains confidence and a few friends along the way.
The main characters are White, straight, and live comfortable lives. A few supporting characters are people of color but have very minor roles, like Wayne Brady. Stereotypical depictions of unhoused people are also heavily shown.
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Violence & Scariness
Even though there is a threat of murder that hovers over the main character, very little actual violence happens. A man gets hit in the face with a baton stick, knocking a tooth out. A man is choked briefly. Another man is kicked in the groin and has a bottle smashed over his head. A man is chased by "hunters."
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
There are references to romantic relationships that didn't work out. A man says that he "likes" a woman "a lot."
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Strong language includes "f--k," "f--king," "motherf--ker," "s--t," "a--hole," and "damn."
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Products & Purchases
References to the Ellen television show, Nintendo's The Mario Bros. video game series, and Let's Make a Deal.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Adults are shown drinking alcoholic beverages at a bar, in a hotel room, and at restaurants.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Self Reliance is a comedy written and directed by Jake Johnson. Also featuring Johnson in the main role of Thomas Walcott, the film follows Thomas as he tries to find purpose in life after a breakup. He finds himself playing a game that is secretly being filmed for the dark web, and his life is on the line. If he survives for a month, he'll win a million dollars. Despite the constant threat of Thomas being killed, there isn't much violence. A man gets hit in the head with a baton stick, has a tooth knocked out, and gets chased by "hunters." Another man gets kicked in the groin and has a bottle smashed over his head. Adults casually drink alcoholic beverages. Romantic relationships are referenced and briefly discussed. Strong language includes "f--k," "f--king," "motherf--ker," "s--t," "a--hole," and "damn." Stereotypical depictions of unhoused people are also heavily shown. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Jake Johnson is peak Jake Johnson in his first self-directed feature playing Thomas Walcott, an aimless, late 30s-something dude living with his mother. Despite the film's title, the supporting cast helps Johnson out immensely in Self Reliance, as most of the comedy comes from their disbelief in what Thomas claims to be happening to him. While these scenes are too scarce, they do ground the film and try to remind the viewer that Thomas could be anybody. The premise then only holds as long the "this could happen to you," gambit also holds, which means there is a heavy reliance on making sure that Thomas's decisions along the way feel just, rational, and believable, which thankfully they mostly do. But as the days tick on by, the film flirts with a tonal shift that could have sent things in an entirely different direction. For some, the film will only be interesting because of this tease of a tonal shift, which means that the film will only disappoint them because even the in-film game Thomas is playing reminds him that "this is supposed to be a comedy."
But for others, the flirtation with insanity will be enough, and they will find satisfaction in a tidy, if not altogether thrilling, ending. Either way, the film is entirely watchable and pleasant enough. Unfortunately, perhaps not wanting to overly rely on notable talent, Johnson only gives cameos to Andy Samberg, Christopher Lloyd, and Wayne Brady, rather than give them full supporting roles. By doing so, it feels like Johnson missed some great opportunities to make stronger use of their wonderfully varied and comedic talents.
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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.
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