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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
There aren't many take-away messages in this film other than that it's nearly impossible to know whether a good con man is lying to you. Otherwise, there's a lot of lying and selfish, destructive behavior. There's an underlying theme of redemption, but whether it happens or not is very ambiguous.
Positive Role Models
No one in this movie is even remotely a positive role model. Characters manipulate each other, compromise their relationships, and more.
Violence & Scariness
A father threatens to throw his sleeping daughter out of a second-story window if his wife goes through with her threat to leave him. A prison inmate is brutally stabbed multiple times in what seems like a racially motivated killing; the protagonist literally watches him die from behind bars, and the scene is bloody and realistic. In a flashback sequence, viewers see the crime that lands someone in prison, which includes scenes of two dead elderly people bleeding on the floor, one of them with an ankle/foot amputated. Two arsonists are shown burning down houses. A man is threatened and held at gunpoint.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Sex scenes include a woman's naked breasts and back and a man's naked butt and back. There are several shots of the woman's breasts, and at least a couple of the shots are pretty graphic (thrusting, moaning, implied oral sex, etc.). Many conversations early in the movie revolve around graphic descriptions of sex and how great a prisoner's wife is at it. The explicit talk includes descriptions of positions the inmate remembers fondly, questions about sex in your 60s, and more.
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Barely a scene passes without multiple swear words, including "f--k" (and variations thereof), "s--t," "a--hole," "d--k," "c--k," "t-ts," "ass," "hell," "goddamn," "c--t," and more.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Jack and Madylyn drink and smoke cigarettes every time they're together, except for when they're having breakfast. They drink so often that the liquor store cashier knows what Jack wants without either of them speaking to each other. Lucetta is also shown hanging out in bars smoking and drinking, and there's a retirement party and other scenes in which almost all of the adults are drinking/smoking.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this mature prison drama is full of graphic sexual conversation and several sex scenes that include partial nudity (breasts, butts, etc.). The violence includes a bloody stabbing that's racially motivated, and the language is nonstop -- there's no swear word you can think of that isn't used. Additionally, the movie deals with lots of heavy topics that young kids and even most teens aren't old enough to understand -- marital malaise, redemption, sin, spiritual rebirth, prison's inability to rehabilitate, etc. This isn't an R-rated movie in which the sex and language are played for laughs; with such grown-up subject matter, this is drama is best for adults and possibly the most mature, film-loving older teens. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Screenwriter Angus McLachlan (Junebug) is a master of dialogue, and he doesn't disappoint with STONE. The conversations between Norton and De Niro are electrifyingly good and at times uncomfortably honest (and, when it comes to sex, graphic). But with its talkiness and scanty number of locations -- it takes place mostly in Jack's prison office, the house he shares with his long-suffering wife Madylyn (a terriffic Frances Conroy), and the small apartment where Lucetta lives -- the movie feels like a well-written play that's been adapted for film. And while the dialogue sings, the outcome is far from satisfying -- not from a "happy ending" point of view, but from a "what happens now?" perspective. Ambiguity, of course, is a theme of the film -- it's never clear whether Stone is the second coming of the young pathological liar he played in Presumed Innocent or whether he's really experienced a revival of sorts. (What is clear is that the cast was perfectly selected. Even the actors who play young Jack and Madylyn in the opening scene -- Enver Gjokaj and Pepper Binkley -- look remarkably like De Niro and Conroy.)
All of the characters' early-afternoon drinking and smoking and casual sex adds a grimy film of discontent to the story, and the effect is a sinking feeling that nothing is going to be OK and that no one -- particularly Jack -- is going to end up happy, even if they are reborn. Jovovich, with her sugary-sweet voice and ethereal personality, oozes the kind of charisma that other women have to work quite hard to muster. Lucetta doesn't even have to try -- she can seduce a man with just a blink of her shockingly blue eyes, and when she sets Jack in her sights, he's basically a victim (a willing one, of course, but a victim just the same). This isn't an easy movie to watch, but if you're looking for an at-times meditative, at-times electrifying look at whether sinners can ever be truly redeemed, this is a fascinating film.
Did we miss something on diversity?
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.