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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Served Like a Girl is a documentary about women who serve in the military and come home to find little to no help with problems ranging from illness to homelessness. (According to the movie, some 55,000 female veterans are homeless.) The featured women come together for a pageant called "Ms. Veteran America," which is intended to raise awareness of this problem. While no violence is shown, there are graphic descriptions of death on the battlefield, sexual assault, and a murder. Language is also strong, with several uses of "f--k" and "f---ing." There's also sex talk, including discussions of vibrators, as well as cigarette smoking and mentions of drug addiction. The women get angry (understandably), but ultimately this is a celebratory movie with strong, inspiring female role models and messages about perseverance and courage.
What's the story?
In SERVED LIKE A GIRL, several female veterans from various branches of the military get together to participate in the Ms. Veteran America pageant competition. The event is intended to raise awareness of the 55,000 female veterans in the United States who are homeless; per the movie, many veteran services help men only and refuse aid to women. The featured women have all dealt with a horrible irony: After serving their country, they returned home to struggle with illness, poverty, homelessness, divorce, and many other problems, with no help -- except from each other.
Is it any good?
It's not polished, but Lysa Heslov's documentary fully celebrates the courage of its featured women -- more off the battlefield than on -- and the result is a strong, teary, heartfelt film. Served Like a Girl interviews Army veteran Jaspen Boothe, who founded the Ms. Veteran America competition, as well as its first winner, Air Force vet Denyse Gordon. It focuses on five new contestants for the 2015 crown, including Navy vet Hope Garcia, who suffered sexual assaults, was homeless, and shares custody of her children with her ex-husband. Army vet Marissa Strock lost her lower legs but still loves shopping for shoes, even though she can't wear her favorite sparkly high heels. Navy vet Rachel Engler was a former NFL cheerleader and fell ill after her service with a chronic neuromuscular illness but continued with her love of dancing.
Heslov interviews the women in casual settings -- just hanging out in doorways or in kitchens, with no artificial "talking heads." That allows Army vet Nichole Alred's mother, a strong supporter of her daughter, to becomes a colorful character as well. The women's stories could easily inspire outrage, but, at the same time, they're also amazing, tragic, and awe-inspiring.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the women featured in Served Like a Girl. Are they role models? Why? What's inspiring about them? What are their flaws?
How is violence handled in the movie? Is hearing about violent acts less upsetting than seeing them? Why or why not?
The Served Like a Girl website offers ideas for things people can do to help homeless female military veterans. What else can be done? How can civilians influence the way the military views and treats women who serve?
How is sex addressed in the movie?
- In theaters: August 25, 2017
- On DVD or streaming: November 7, 2017
- Cast: Jaspen Boothe, Nichole Alred, Rachel Engler
- Director: Lysa Heslov
- Studio: Entertainment Studios Motion Pictures
- Genre: Documentary
- Topics: Great Girl Role Models
- Character Strengths: Courage, Perseverance
- Run time: 103 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
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