The Contender

 
Thoughtful, enjoyable film for older teens.
  • Review Date: May 20, 2003
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2000
  • Running Time: 126 minutes

What parents need to know

Violence

Characters in peril, accidental death.

Sex

Sexual references and situations, including multiple partners and adultery.

Language

Strong language.

Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Drinking and smoking.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this movie has frank discussions about the allegations against Laine, flashbacks to the fraternity party, and a clothed but explicit sex scene. People use strong language.

Kids say

Not yet rated
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What's the story?

When the Vice President dies, the President (Jeff Bridges) must appoint a new one, someone who will underscore his legacy and secure swift confirmation from the Senate. He bypasses the popular Governor Hathaway (William Peterson) in favor of a Senator from Ohio named Laine Hansen (Joan Allen). Laine, a Democrat, has a lot of support, even from her former-governor father, a Republican. But she has some powerful enemies, including the conservative Congressman Shelly Runyon (Gary Oldman), a Hathaway supporter, who has managed to make himself chairman of the confirmation committee. And when allegations that Laine had sexual relations with several boys at a college fraternity party surface, he leaks them to a website and asks her to respond. Laine refuses, saying that she will not discuss her private life and that there is a double standard because no man would have been asked to respond to such a question.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

THE CONTENDER isn't authentic. It isn't even credible. It falls just short of preposterous. Now that we have that out of the way, let me say that it is thought-provoking and thoroughly enjoyable. It is a lot of fun to watch the Washington wheels turn and the spinners spin. Writer-director Rod Lurie has been around Washington enough to get the characters and the vocabulary right. Echoes of the Clarence Thomas and Clinton impeachment hearings give the story some sizzle. Director and stars give the story their best shot, and it moves along briskly.

Allen and Bridges give Oscar-quality performances, and supporting players like Sam Elliott, Christian Slater and newcomer Kathryn Morris add depth and sparkle. Oldman, who also co-produced, is almost unrecognizable under a Pappy-Yokum-style hairpiece. He manages the right mix of menace and fervor. If the final turns are a bit Capra-esque, it is still hard to fault the movie for wanting Laine to end up happily, because by then we do, too.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how much it is fair to expect politicians to reveal to us and how much it is fair to expect from them. They may also want to talk about the challenge presented to Laine back in college and how she responded and whether she is right in saying that a double standard was applied. Families should talk about Laine's comment that principles are most important when things get tough.

Movie details

Theatrical release date:October 13, 2000
DVD release date:March 6, 2001
Cast:Christian Slater, Gary Oldman, Jeff Bridges, Joan Allen, Sam Elliott
Director:Rod Lurie
Studio:DreamWorks
Genre:Drama
Run time:126 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:strong sexual content and language

This review of The Contender was written by

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Quality

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Parent of a 6 year old Written byLB2010 May 14, 2010
age 16+
 

Should be required viewing for every high schooler

Fascinating political drama and a peek into the workings of the White House and Congress. The best part is the message this sends about the damage done by a whisper and smear campaign. These days so many kids seek revenge on their peers by starting rumors that they know to be unfounded, maybe without even realizing the enormous damage it can inflict on a person's life. This movie shows these actions for what they truly are. It also portrays political leaders in a positive (if somewhat glorified) light. I especially love the portrayal of a strong female leader who stays true to her principles, despite overwhelming pressure to yield to political expedience. Great movie for older teens, though some will be more fascinated with the couple of scenes of group sex that flash onscreen very briefly.
What other families should know
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Great role models

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