Parents' Guide to

The Death of Stalin

By Michael Ordona, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 15+

Language, violence in amazing, absurd historical comedy.

Movie R 2018 106 minutes
The Death of Stalin Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 14+

Based on 5 parent reviews

age 15+

A lot of barking and a bit of bite

Iannucci is at it again. This film continues the work of In the Loop (2009). The comedy does not bite as much as In the Loop, but the performances are all top notch and the scenes reverberate long after they are off the screen. History may not repeat, but it sure does rhyme. The Death of Stalin is a reminder that historically we have been here before, fascism, totalitarianism, de facto dictatorships and pseudo democracies. And Iannucci wants to remind us that we can make different choices. Isaacs shines, per usual.
age 10+

Very Funny

This is a bit on the side of dark humour but I let my 11 year old son watch it and he understood the comedy and laughed all through the the whole film.

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (5):
Kids say (15):

This is a frequently amazing, head-spinning, tragic farce that somehow manages to balance violent, stressful paranoia with absurd comedy. The laughs never come cheaply; the film stays firmly planted in that terrifying era in which the wrong word in the wrong ear could lead to an entire family's disappearance. That this atmosphere of terror isn't given short shrift drastically raises The Death of Stalin's stakes above those of most political comedies. Some may know director/co-writer Armando Iannucci from HBO's Veep; others may be familiar with his famed BBC series on British politics, The Thick of It, and its brilliant, Oscar-nominated spin-off film In the Loop. Iannucci found fame by satirizing the petty squabbles and bad behavior that frequently end up shaping public policy. Now imagine all that vicious backroom maneuvering and all of those personality clashes, with the given circumstance that death and erasure are likely consequences for failure. It's as if Veep met 1984 met Game of Thrones. And somehow, amid the horrors of lives destroyed and human beings exploited, The Death of Stalin evokes snickers of recognition and produces laugh-out-loud moments. It's quite a feat. Making the balancing act even more impressive, the writers (adapting the graphic novel by Fabien Nury and Thierry Robin) frequently achieve a kind of Chekhovian cadence in the dialogue, with its plain-spoken formality and attention to small details ("Who put a lamp on this chair?") and then mix it with the very modern, ripely profane, brutally cutting language for which Iannucci is famous. That the actors don't use Russian accents dispenses with another unnecessary layer of formality.

The cast, which has already earned many honors in England, is letter-perfect. As Khruschev, Buscemi has one of his best parts in years. Khruschev's learning curve is steep, a fascinating arc from start to finish. British stage star Beale has been picking up nominations and wins as brutal puppeteer Beria, and Tambor's arrogant waffling as Malenkov makes all the reversals possible. Riseborough and Friend get laughs and some sympathy as Stalin's grown children: She's kind of a Masha figure (from Chekhov's The Seagull), while he's a boozy loose cannon who was born on third and thinks he hit a triple. Isaacs is a formidable presence as Field Marshal Zhukov; he's the hot knife that cuts through the congealed fat of bureaucrats who convene a committee to debate getting a doctor when they find Stalin felled. The Death of Stalin's tragicomic chaos vaults over a bar that few films would dream of attempting to clear.

Movie Details

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