By Joyce Slaton,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Contrived yet effective family weepie.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Two characters are shown living together without being married.
Violence & Scariness
A family member dies of cancer.
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An authority figure counsels a 12-year-old girl to call a boy at school "limp d---." There are a few other curses, as well.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Adults smoke cigarettes and drink cocktails, though not to the point of drunkenness. Susan Sarandon's character smokes marijuana to deal with her chemotherapy.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this film tackles some very grim topics: divorce and death. Though the characters are shown grappling realistically with real problems and doing the best they can in bad situations, the mere fact that the mother in the movie is dying will be too much for younger and very sensitive children. There is some light swearing, drinking, and a character smokes pot to deal with chemotherapy.
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Where to Watch
Based on 5 parent reviews
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What's the Story?
Jackie Harrison (Susan Sarandon) is unhappily divorced from Luke (Ed Harris), who's now shacking up with fashion photog Isabel (Julia Roberts), with the two kids shuttled in between the two homes. At first Isabel and Jackie are bitter rivals, and the kids side with Mom. But when Jackie develops fatal cancer, Isabel has to start taking up the slack in the Mommy role.
Is It Any Good?
At every step of Stepmom, audiences feel director Chris Columbus pulling the strings. The plot twists are as contrived as the swelling strings that fill the soundtrack, engineered in some Hollywood lab to jerk the tears right out of you. And yet it works, mostly due to the stellar acting on display.
Julia Roberts is predictably glowing, Susan Sarandon is confident and real, and the little nippers (Jena Malone and Liam Aiken) are so genuine that it's easy to forget that you're being pulled this way and that by the filmmakers, like a puppet on a string. It's manipulative. But there's enough polish on the film that it works. Ultimately, this is depressing but entertaining, a solid choice for a rainy night when no one feels like laughing.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about how the characters cope with divorce and a death in the family. Do you think their reactions are realistic or too Hollywood? For kids who have experienced either event, what's missing in this movie? Is there a movie you can think of that's more realistic?
- In theaters: December 15, 1998
- On DVD or streaming: October 1, 1999
- Cast: Ed Harris, Julia Roberts, Susan Sarandon
- Director: Chris Columbus
- Inclusion Information: Bisexual actors
- Studio: Columbia Tristar
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 124 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: language and thematic elements
- Last updated: March 18, 2023
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