The Opening Act

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
The Opening Act Movie Poster Image
Indie about aspiring stand-up comic is both sweet and salty.
  • NR
  • 2020
  • 90 minutes

Parents say

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Kids say

age 18+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Movie is mainly about not giving up on your dream -- not only learning how to ignore people who say you can't, but also figuring out how to follow the dream, doing it for the right reasons.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Aside from some comical misbehavior, Will is a genuinely good guy and offers a positive Asian representation. A female stand-up comic stands out as an exception to what's usually a "boys' club." Diversity within cast.


Character with bruised face explains that he was punched by a cop. In a montage sequence, a child's mother is shown to have cancer; another shot appears to take place at her funeral.


Woman performs simulated oral sex on a man; it's mostly off-screen/obscured, with nothing graphic shown. Woman with phallus-shaped cup at bachelorette party. Suggestion of cheating on significant others (not followed through). Some sex-related talk. Kissing.


Extremely strong language throughout, including "f--k," "s--t," the "N" word, "p---y," "a--hole," "bitch," "d--k," "d--khole," plus "oh God," "oh my God," and "Christ" used as exclamations.


Mention of Instagram.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Minor characters are very drunk. Background social drinking in clubs. Reference to "doing blow." Other drug references.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Opening Act is an indie dramedy about a young man (Jimmy O. Yang) who dreams of being a stand-up comic and gets a chance to prove himself. More earnest than funny, the movie is quietly effective and character driven, though strong language and other iffy content make it most appropriate for mature audiences. The language is extremely salty and nearly constant, with uses of "f--k," "s--t," the "N" word, "a--hole," and more. There are also some strong sexual references, the suggestion of cheating, kissing, and a phallus-shaped cup. A woman performs simulated oral sex on a man, though it's mostly off-screen or obscured from view (nothing graphic is seen). Characters drink socially, and minor characters get quite drunk. There are also some drug references. A man with a bruised face explains that he was "punched by a cop." A montage depicts a child's mother dying of cancer.

User Reviews

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Teen, 17 years old Written bynikipup October 21, 2020

dont buy it

This is a stupid movie it should be rated x not nr WARNING NOT

What's the story?

In THE OPENING ACT, Will (Jimmy O. Yang) has grown up watching stand-up comedy with his father and now dreams of becoming a comic himself. But he's reached a standstill performing open mic nights, unable to move up. When his friend Quinn (Ken Jeong) offers him the chance to emcee a big-time show, Will quits his awful job in an insurance firm, risking everything on this one shot. Even better, his hero, Billy G (Cedric the Entertainer), is the headliner. But Will is paired for the weekend with warm-up act Chris (Alex Moffat), who likes to party and pick up women, and Will immediately stumbles into some bad luck and loses his confidence. Can he get it back before Sunday night, or will he give up on his dream?

Is it any good?

This indie drama features several comedians in roles of all kinds, but, oddly, it has very few laughs; still, it works in its own quiet way, with touching characters and a fascinating setting. Comedian Steve Byrne makes his feature writing and directing debut with The Opening Act, and it's a refreshingly simple story about whether or not to give up on your dream. In the lead role, Yang has a sweet presence -- perhaps a little too sweet to handle zany situations like being trapped under a cop's girlfriend's trailer or accidentally taking the last chocolate eclair belonging to a local DJ.

When it's not trying too hard with ridiculous asides like those, The Opening Act really captures a realistic feeling of what it might be like to work in a club. Comics are either very specific about their introductions or very vague ("from clubs and colleges"), and we learn never to try out new jokes on a Saturday night. Other comics, from SNL's Moffat to veteran stand-ups like Cedric, Jeong, Whitney Cummings, and others, perform their bits as if they were at work, on the job, and not concerned about making the movie's viewers laugh, which makes them more human. Bill Burr may have the best shot at tickling funnybones -- not as a comedian, but in the silly role of Will's awful boss, spouting inspirational quotes and leaving the last word blank.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about The Opening Act's sexual references and sex acts. Why do you think sex is so often played for humor?

  • How is alcohol depicted? Is it meant to look cool or fun? Are there consequences? Why does that matter?

  • Does Will get discouraged from following his dream? What kinds of things does he do or try to keep going? Have you ever been discouraged?

  • What positive character representations did you notice in the film? What about stereotypes?

  • What is a comedian's job like? Does the movie make it look like fun? Is it also hard work?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love drama and comedy

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