A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that most kids probably won't be interested in this indie drama, which focuses on adults who have troubled pasts -- including a man just released from prison and a woman who has a few "gentleman callers." A third main character is a high-functioning autistic woman, whose behavior may prompt questions from younger viewers. A violent car crash early in the movie results in a passenger's death. There are some brief discussions of sex (nothing graphic) and a post-sex scene showing a couple in bed together. A few uses of "f--k" in anger.
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What's the story?
Just released from prison, Alex (Alan Rickman) meets charmingly eccentric, purple-haired Vivienne (Emily Hampshire). An aspiring writer, Vivienne sees through Alex's tetchiness, even making him laugh briefly. But then a car accident (not Alex's fault) leaves her dead and him feeling emotionally liable. He heads off to Vivienne's house, where he meets her mother, Linda (Sigourney Weaver), a high-functioning autistic adult who stocks shelves in the local supermarket, loves jumping on her trampoline, and accepts Vivienne's death without question. Staying in town to help with the funeral arrangements, Alex comes to understand Linda's reaction. He also finds his own solace in Linda's neighbor, Maggie (Carrie-Anne Moss), a divorcee who's happy to have sex without commitment. When Alex realizes that Maggie is not, as Linda has asserted, a prostitute, he achieves another insight: Some ambiguities, which aren't understood by the black-or-white-thinking Linda, are worth savoring.
Is it any good?
The movie's many clichés tend to overwhelm its more interesting questions about the pressures of social connections and conventions. With too much plinky piano music and a scene that purports to show Linda's point of view as she dances with the dead Vivienne against an imaginary white background, SNOW CAKE is at once too obvious and too earnest.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about autism's growing visibility in the media -- which has increased as more and more people are diagnosed. How does the movie portray a "high functioning" autistic adult? How is she different from other autistic TV and movie characters (Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man, for example, or Sean Penn in I Am Sam)? How does the movie use her as a model of behavior for other damaged adults around her? What other messages does the movie send?
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