The Heyday of the Insensitive Bastards

Movie review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
The Heyday of the Insensitive Bastards Movie Poster Image
Sex, drugs in mature, meandering tales of varying quality.
  • NR
  • 2017
  • 97 minutes

Parents say

No reviews yetAdd your rating

Kids say

No reviews yetAdd your rating

Did this review miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive, diverse representations in books, TV shows, and movies. Want to help us help them? Suggest a diversity update

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Some sweet messages -- such as a segment featuring a single mom who tenderly cares for her daughter -- but many more are quite dark: A Latino boy is bullied physically and with racist taunts (later he has a fistfight that he implies helps him heal from this and other experiences); a man plans to kill his son with a shotgun; a bunch of 20-somethings accidentally kill a man. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Many different types of characters represented, including regretful fathers, angry children, an off-balance sister. We meet them in such short bursts that it's hard to draw conclusions about them, though some seem kinder than others, and some commit terrible acts. 


Upsetting scenes, rather than bloody/gory ones. A man prepares to shoot his son in the head with a shotgun; the son urinates in his pants (viewers see yellow snow), and the father lets him go. A woman puts honey on herself to attract ants; viewers see them crawling in and out of her underwear. One man tries to wake another he thinks is drunk (he's actually dead) by urinating at length on his face. A man with a degenerative disease dies, and his son and wife lie in bed with the body. 


Brief sexual scenes, including a couple making out feverishly against a wall before falling into bed together; a teen boy hears his mother having sex with several men and sees them fondling her (part of one nipple is very briefly visible); teens tell sexual stories that refer to female body parts and acts ("f---ing," "t-ts," "ass"); women are seen in lingerie.


Language includes "f--k," "f---ing," "a--hole," "bastard," "hell," "goddamn," "ass" (referring to the body part), "p---y" (referring to sex in general), "bulls--t," "jerk-off," "poophead," "c--k," "t-ts," "d--k."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Multiple characters drink beer, cocktails, and liquor. Multiple characters (including teens) smoke cigarettes. In one vignette, characters take LSD and psychedelic mushrooms (and make a fatal error). 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Heyday of the Insensitive Bastards is a collection of vignettes based on the same-named short story collection by Robert Boswell. While there isn't much in the way of gory violence, some of the subjects and characters are quite dark and upsetting: a slowly dying parent, vicious bullies, an accidental death, a man who tries to kill his son with a shotgun. Other unusual, sometimes-brutal imagery includes a woman putting honey on her body to attract ants (viewers see them crawling in and out of her underwear) and a man trying to wake another he thinks is drunk (he's actually dead) by urinating on his face. Brief sexual scenes include a couple kissing against a wall and then in bed and a woman being fondled by multiple men (her nipple is partially visible very briefly). Teen boys also describe made-up sexual scenes with vulgar words for sex and body parts. Language is frequent and includes multiple uses of "f--k," plus "a--hole," "bastard," "goddamn," "p---y," and more. Several characters (including teens) smoke cigarettes and drink, and 20-somethings drink heavily and take LSD and psychedelic mushrooms, which leads to an accidental killing.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say

There aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.

There aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.

What's the story?

A man visits his hometown after his dad has a stroke, and he learns a secret about an old girlfriend. A house cleaner escapes her dull workday life through vivid fantasies. A trio of teens kills a few hours making up stories about their nonexistent sex lives. Based on short stories from Robert Boswell's book (also named THE HEYDAY OF THE INSENSITIVE BASTARDS), this collection of seven vignettes explores gender, family bonds, the hold that your history has on the present, and other topics. Made for a 2012 filmmaking class by actor James Franco, the film features Franco and many other well-known actors, including Kristen Wiig, Natalie Portman, Keir Gilchrist, and Amber Tamblyn

Is it any good?

Critics frequently dismiss movies by comparing them to student films -- and watching this meandering series of unconnected stories, which was literally Franco's student film, demonstrates why. Franco has assembled a very talented cast (just which favors did he have to call in from his A-list friends?), but since the seven vignettes showcased here are of such widely varying quality -- and since it's unclear exactly how they're connected or what conclusions we're supposed to draw from them being grouped together -- the whole movie is a bit of a forehead-wrinkler. 

The best of the stories connect with viewers due to the actors' idiosyncratic charm. Wiig, always fun to watch, brings a little sparkle to her part as an outwardly sedate single mom/aspiring actress working as a house cleaner, whose inner life is full of satin sheets and red carpets. Jacob Loeb is compelling as a dead-eyed kid who moves to a new town hoping to find some fun and a girlfriend and instead becomes embroiled in a cover-up. But in between, there are a lot of "where is this going?" moments and clunky dialogue, the worst of which is uttered by poor Tamblyn as an off-balance sister. "The combined IQ of a colony of ants exceeds that of the average U.S. senator," she says, before telling a metaphorical story about a pair of famous monkeys who became a fish and a bird who could no longer understand each other's language. Franco completists will be the main audience for The Heyday of the Insensitive Bastards, a curiosity that ultimately doesn't go much of anywhere.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the setup of The Heyday of the Insensitive Bastards. Are the stories in the movie connected to each other? How? What conclusions can we draw from the fact that they're grouped together in one film? 

  • Do you consider any of the characters role models? Why or why not?

  • How does the movie portray substance use (drinking, smoking, drugs)? Is it glamorized? Are there realistic consequences? Why does that matter?

  • Actor James Franco, who stars in the film's first chapter, produced this movie as a class assignment for a filmmaking class. Does that information surprise you or make sense, having seen the movie? 

  • The stories in this movie are based on a book. Have you read it? Does it improve your appreciation of a movie to have read the book it's based on? 

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love quirky movies

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

Streaming options powered by JustWatch

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate