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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Despite some of the inappropriate decisions explored in the movie, there are a couple of positive messages about the need for unconditional friendships and the importance of being honest about who you are with those who love you.
Positive Role Models
Most of the characters are flawed adolescents, but Lucasta is relatable for teens who might be questioning their sexuality. She's confused about how she feels but in the end is honest about it with her male best friend. Both Fernanda and Victoria redeem themselves, although Victoria's one good decision doesn't make up for her cruelty and manipulation.
Violence & Scariness
One character secretly cuts herself and expresses suicidal thoughts.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Brief nudity during a scene in the girls' showers (one girl's breasts are seen very briefly). A married woman keeps trying to get her husband to have sex and humorously asks him to rub her (clothed) breasts and tries to have sex with him. Jokes about Viagra, erections, a penis looking like a "boiled shrimp," and other sexual remarks. A male teacher has fantasies about one of his flirtatious students, whom he imagines wet and naked (lots of skin but no actual nudity). On various occasions, a student comes on to her teacher, sucking provocatively on her pencil, asking him to help her with a leg injury while she's wrapped in a towel in the bathroom, etc. A couple has sex in a car. Adolescents kiss at a fair. A teenager loses her virginity to an older man (they're both seen shirtless on a sofa together). Two girls get in a bath together, and one teaches the other how to kiss.
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One "f--k," plus several uses of "s--t," "bitch," "a--hole," etc.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Victoria's mother acts like an alcoholic, even at a baby's christening. Teens get high smoking pot. An adult drinks in front of a minor he's trying to seduce and breathes marijuana smoke into her mouth. A mother and a teen smoke cigarettes.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this coming-of-age drama takes place at a girls' boarding school where the central teen characters deal with issues of sexuality, depression, and suicidal behavior. There are lots of sexual overtones to the film, including a couple of sex scenes, some kisses, and brief nudity in a shower scene (a girl's breasts are shown briefly before she hides); also, two girls are shown in a bath together and kiss for a moment. Two of the relationships are between a married man and a high-school senior (one is consummated, the other stalls at overt flirting). Language is on the tame end for an R rating, but there's some underage alcohol and drug use (marijuana and cigarettes). Amidst all the iffy stuff, the movie does have some positive messages about unconditional friendship and making painful decisions. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
This movie is uneven and unsatisfying. Despite its 2011 release date, Tanner Hall was actually shot in 2009; it's one of those low-budget indie films that makes the film-festival circuit and then lies on a dusty shelf without distribution. That is, until director David Fincher cast Mara as Lisbeth Salander in his Girl with the Dragon Tattoo adaptation. Voila, a studio picks up this boarding-school drama and releases it to capitalize on the other movie's buzz. The problem is, of course, that watching Mara in this is a bit jarring after her nuanced work in Fincher's universally acclaimed The Social Network or as fierce and furious Lisbeth. Here, Mara is in total ingenue mode, and while she's fine, we all know at this point that she deserves more.
The movie feels like exactly what it is: a labor of love between two directors who themselves are intimately acquainted with the world of privilege and intimacy that the characters inhabit. Tatiana von Furstenberg is a titled princess and the daughter of fashion designer Diane, and Francesca Gregorini is also a moneyed daughter of aristocracy (and the stepdaughter of Ringo Starr). So although the movie's atmosphere seems just right and the girls are all played by talented actresses, there's no real cohesive thread to the film. The only subplots that grab viewers are straight laced Fernanda's seemingly out-of-character affair with all-too-willing Gio, and, most notably, Lucasta's sexual identity struggles (Ferguson is vulnerable and sweet). Amy Sedaris and Kattan pop up for some comic relief as a sex-starved married couple, but they're so cartoonish (especially Sedaris) that it's hard to take them seriously. All of these loose threads and subplots would have worked in a primetime teen drama, but it doesn't work for a 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.