A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this movie is very violent, with a lot of shooting, graphic injuries, and the deaths of important characters. A woman commits suicide when her lover is killed. Characters drink and smoke and one character is drunk. There are mild sexual references, including a homosexual relationship. Some of the Mexican characters could be considered stereotypes, but then so could some of the American characters.
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What's the story?
THE MEXICAN centers on Jerry (Brad Pitt) and Samantha (Julia Roberts), a couple whose romantic relationship is complicated enough when Jerry is called on to perform one last errand for a mob boss. He has to go to Mexico to get a valuable antique gun called "The Mexican" from a man named Beck and bring them both back with him. Jerry tries to explain to Samantha that given a choice between letting down the mob and letting down his girlfriend, the fact that only one of those options involves death has to factor into the calculus. Samantha, who is a big fan of the women's magazine school of relationships and who reads books like "Men Who Can't Love" with a highlighter in her hand, tosses Jerry's clothes out the window and sets off to pursue her dream of becoming a croupier in Las Vegas. The mob guys know that Jerry's focus and competence cannot be counted on without a little added incentive, so they arrange for Samantha to be kidnapped by a hitman named Leroy (James Gandolfini).
Is it any good?
Two of the biggest stars in Hollywood took pay cuts to appear in what is essentially a quirky independent movie -- with two of the biggest stars in Hollywood. But their star power overwhelms not just their acting but the movie's story as well. The effect is like trying to juggle a bowling ball with a dozen eggs. Fortunately, when things get out of kilter or the plot begins to sag, there is all that star power to give us something to enjoy until it gets going again. If the movie has a lot of pieces that don't quite fit together, at least they are all high-quality pieces. It may be something of a mess, but it is an interesting mess to watch.
Gandolfini is brilliant, and the scenes between Leroy and Samantha are the best part of the movie. We want Jerry and Sam to get together, but the movie becomes less interesting when they do. Even a surprise cameo from another big star doesn't help us through a final act that involves the loss of characters we've come to care about. Jerry and Samantha react and behave in ways that we are not used to seeing characters played by big stars behave. Pitt and Roberts give it their all, but the script doesn't have enough weight to help make that behavior consistent with what we know of the characters.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how people work out the complexities of relationships and why it is that so many of the characters care more about relationships than about money or the life and death situations all around them. The idea that "the past doesn't matter -- it's the future that counts" is a beguiling one -- is it true? Under what circumstances? Leroy talks about being "surrounded by lonliness and finality," and about how the people who die having loved are different from those who die alone. This is worth discussing, along with the way that Sam and Jerry begin to think about their relationship as being special enough so that they cannot walk away from it. Families may also want to talk about the way that Jerry's friend justifies participating in criminal acts by compartmentalizing, explaining that he is just doing his "portion."
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