The Diary of Preston Plummer

Movie review by
Tracy Moore, Common Sense Media
The Diary of Preston Plummer Movie Poster Image
Vividly shot indie addresses heavy themes of rape, suicide.
  • NR
  • 2012
  • 82 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

The Diary of Preston Plummer espouses positive messages about loyalty, integrity, truth-seeking, and living your life from the point of view of the truth.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Characters are complex and well-developed, but the film traffics heavily in family dysfunction, secrets, lies, and betrayals. Although a few characters stand out as honest and well-intentioned, others are not what they seem or take some time to root out.

Violence

The film contains a graphic suicide scene wherein a man shoots himself in the head in a hotel dining room in front of a room full of people. Though the scene shows the event unfolding in a slightly off-center way, the action is clear, and blood splatters. There also is a shot of a man lying facedown in a pool of blood. There also is a brief scene of a dying man visibly coughing up blood. The discussion of a purported rape and a related civil charge is a major plot point.

Sex

The film contains a scene in which a college graduate-age man and woman have sex, with the implication that it's her first time. The pair are undressed down to underwear and fully under a blanket with no nudity shown, but the action is portrayed through breathing and conversation, such as when the woman asks after why there's blood, suggesting she has lost her virginity. Elsewhere, there is some frolicking in bathing suits on the beach, a few scenes of swimming at night in bathing suits, some kissing while characters are lying on a beach on top of each other, and a kiss in a tree.

Language

There is some brief use of casual profanity, such as "the world is a f--king miracle."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

There are a few scenes of drinking involving college graduates. In one scene, a man drinks whiskey straight just outside a graduation ceremony. In another, a man takes a shot of liquor at a party and then proceeds to drink out of a Solo cup, while other partygoers also hold or sip from Solo cups, and some stumble drunkenly. A man drives a woman home from the party soon after. Later, a man and woman share a bottle of wine.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Diary of Preston Plummer contains a graphic suicide and an explicit discussion of a purported rape. It also involves the depiction of the loss of virginity of a college-age woman, though there is no nudity. In this regard, the film perpetuates a myth about losing your virginity -- that it can be definitively determined by bloodshed after intercourse -- that parents should be prepared to dispel. There also is a discussion of an absent parent who did jail time, and there's some profanity ("f--k"). Overall, the film has a slow, thoughtful pace that explores the dynamics of a dysfunctional, estranged family's past and a budding young relationship, but these moments give the film much heavier, more mature themes that may warrant discussion.

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What's the story?

Preston Plummer (Trevor Morgan) is a recent high school graduate who's given a momentary reprieve from his indecisiveness about his future when he meets Kate Cather (Rumer Willis), a kind but troubled young woman who invites him to her family's island in Florida, where he discovers a tangled web of estrangement, dysfunction, and intrigue.

Is it any good?

This is a beautifully shot film in a lovely setting -- the untrammeled Amelia Island off the coast of Florida -- where every scene glimmers in the moonlight's reflection on the water. But even the gorgeous backdrop can't lighten the mood of what unfolds in this heavy meditation on familial estrangement and dysfunction. It's mostly well-acted, and the pace is as languid as a summer spent on the beach, where every issue and feeling gets room to breathe.

For mature teens who are interested in stories about identity, growing up, and the tangled webs we weave, this is a thoughtful film that takes those subjects on without tidy answers. But for parents, there are a lot of heavy themes that come up here: dark troubles, bitter accusations, betrayal, and, in particular, a graphic suicide and a very thorny discussion of false rape accusations. Also troubling is the myth it perpetuates about virginity -- that there is some definitive way to tell whether a woman is a virgin or not based on the presence of blood on the sheets after intercourse. In fairness, it does so in the service of the plot rather than with any kind of agenda, but any parent interested in accurate discussions of such issues will want to clear this up.  

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how virginity is portrayed in the film. What are the dangers of portraying virginity as something that can be definitively determined? Does the film use this myth responsibly because it serves a larger plot purpose? How else might it have addressed these issues?

  • The unsettling discussion of rape centers on false accusations, but false accusations are far less prevalent than legitimate reports of rape. Do you think the film perpetuates the idea that false rape accusations are common? Why, or why not?

  • Both Kate's mother and grandfather make unsavory choices to provide for their families while honoring their beliefs. How are the two of them portrayed similarly or differently? Does the film seem to sympathize more with one than the other? Why or why not?

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