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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
People who fight for rights are not necessarily nice or exemplary, but the principles they stand for can be admirable.
Positive Role Models
Madalyn was crude, abusive, combative, insensitive, and undiplomatic. She stood up for Constitutional freedoms but seemed to relish doing so in the most offensive way possible. Madalyn is the only white person who marched with Baltimore African Americans against racism. A Christian evangelist suggests he and Madalyn debate atheism-versus-Christianity around the country in a road show designed to make them a lot of money. Madalyn illegally stashed money offshore and didn't pay taxes.
Violence & Scariness
Three people are kidnapped at gunpoint, and a million-dollar ransom is demanded. Thugs wave guns at their victims. A man attacks a girl. It's implied that he assaults her sexually. Later she is found dead. Two others are murdered on screen, by violent suffocation. Bodies are later seen being cut up in the dark and buried. A man says he killed someone by beating him with a shovel and he beat his prostitute mother to a "bloody pulp."
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
References made to birth control, "sucking c--k," sex in crude terms, prostitution. Speculation that Jesus's mother, Mary, was not a virgin and that she liked sex.
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"F--k," "s--t," "c--k," "c--t," "bastard," "SOB," "pecker," "damn," "hell," "crap," "ass," "faggot," and "c--ksucker."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Adults smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol, sometimes to drunkenness. A man loses his wife and becomes an alcoholic, then starts recovery in a 12-step program.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Most Hated Woman in America is a fictionalized biography of Madalyn Murray O'Hair, a controversial activist for atheism and the separation between church and state in America, beginning in the 1960s. The movie bobs along, almost comically, deriving most of its life from the colorful and nonconformist ravings of its protagonist, so the violent ending may be shocking to those unfamiliar with this bit of history and it will certainly be inappropriate for kids. Murders by suffocation and body dismemberment are shown on screen. Three people are kidnapped at gunpoint, and a million-dollar ransom is demanded. Thugs wave guns at their victims. A man attacks a girl. It's implied that he assaults her sexually. Later she is found dead. This portrayal includes Murray O'Hair's penchant for crude language, including "f--k," "s--t," "c--k," and "bastard," and her gritty and sometimes derogatory references to sex, homosexuality, Jesus, and organized religion. Adults smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
This fictionalized portrait is an intriguing curiosity, compelling, and off-putting simultaneously. The Most Hated Woman in America is unvarnished in its presentation of a crude and difficult woman, who insulted and dismissed even those closest to her yet still stood up for Constitutional principles of freedom and equality. Sometimes the narrative can feel like a hammer treating the audience like a nail. The script calls for no more than a one-note performance, and the talented Melissa Leo obligingly delivers it. As Madalyn, she is over-the-top abrasive, mean to her pious father, even though he supports her into adulthood, withering to the loyal son who would rather be with his wife and child, and tactlessly dismissive of just about everyone else. What's great is the way the movie pays tribute to Murray O'Hair's historical role as disrupter and awareness-raiser, although it curiously omits her Communist Party connections. The story romps in and out of sequence, but flashbacks are sharply executed to provide clarifying information and useful histories between characters. Greed and exploitation of human foibles are themes, and they are practiced by both the villains and "heroes" here.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.