A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that characters in this movie work in the rap-music industry, and there are excerpts of profanity-laced music (and hints that the cynicism and negativity in rap has tainted their outlooks). There is talk of adultery and broken families, and the plot turns out to be a tricky sort of revenge-thriller, which defies traditional Hollywood morality views of good and evil (especially in the outcome). Justice is not served and may never be. There is an undercurrent of September 11, 2001, although the event is never even mentioned by name.
What's the story?
Ashade (Abdellatif Kechiche) is an educated Syrian Muslim driving a taxi, trying to earn enough money to keep his brother from being deported back to Syria (and likely torture) for very iffy terrorist ties. His taxi is hailed by sharp-tongued Philly (Robin Wright Penn), who talks scornfully about her job producing Sorry, Haters, a top-rated TV show in which rap-music stars flaunt their wealth, girls, and success. The reluctant taxi drives her to her suburban home and self-described dysfunctional family. Soon she goes too far. She starts to tempt Ashade to commit a terrorist act, with her help, to protest his brother's ordeal. Ashade is horrified and glad to be rid of this scary customer. But he's not rid of her -- as he discovers that she's stolen all his earnings. Knowing where she works, the desperate cabbie goes on the offensive.
Is it any good?
Though packaging makes it look like a "can't we all get along?" piece about New York City after 9/11, SORRY, HATERS is a tricky blend of genres. It's at once drama, thriller, and political-social commentary, never quite finding its feet in any one camp. But it's fast-paced, bracing, and watchable all the way to the especially startling finish. The script plays on negative expectations and stereotypes of two reviled minorities: Arab-Islamic men and American career women.
This film is definitely not a crowd-pleaser, leaving unanswered questions about Robin Wright Penn character's true motivations and values. What exactly is she getting out of her scheme? (The DVD commentary offers insight). Sorry, Haters packs a wallop in its portrait of people condemned by prejudices -- and the viewer's, since some of our assumptions about Philly turn out to be completely wrong as well. The lean, straight-ahead plotting should keep teen viewers watching.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the characters and how almost nobody -- the Syrian-Arab man, the high-powered TV producer, the Asian mistress -- conform to our expectations. But the movie's manipulative antagonist relies on stereotypes and prejudices to make sure her scheme works out. Do you believe her motivations? How easily do you think a conspiracy like this could happen in real life -- especially in a national climate of fear and "Homeland Security?" Some people believe 9/11 was a big setup. Do you think this movie supports that conspiracy mindset? Why do you think it's named after the fictitious TV show?
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