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Parents' Guide to

The Pretenders

By Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 17+

Franco's mature, French New Wave-inspired misfire.

Movie NR 2019 95 minutes
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James Franco's love triangle is clearly enamored of film history and the French New Wave, and that enthusiasm helps somewhat, but the characters never really come to life or connect with one another. The trio in The Pretenders is clearly inspired by the characters in Francois Truffaut's 1962 Jules and Jim. But as this film lacks that one's freshness and fine balance, the characters come across more like types than full-blooded characters. Not to mention that several melodramatic touches feel tacked-on, rather than organic extensions of the story. And smaller roles, filled by Temple, Brian Cox, Dennis Quaid, and Franco himself, end up as mere placeholders.

The movie tribute bits, especially the little dance number from Godard's Band of Outsiders, are fun, and Franco attempts a few arty shots here and there in homage to the freedom and energy of that 1960s movement. But as a female film student notes after a screening of Terry's film, the intellect is missing here, and The Pretenders ultimately isn't much more than an empty exercise. This, along with Franco's Zeroville, were both rescued after having been shelved, and both are in the spirit of the French New Wave. But Zeroville is a more reckless and sillier journey through movie history; it takes more risks and feels less stuck than this one. The Pretenders isn't terrible, but viewers would be better off checking out some early Godard and Truffaut.

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