The Thing Called Love



A star is born in Nashville.
  • Review Date: October 17, 2005
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 1993
  • Running Time: 116 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages
Not applicable

Fist fight.


The two leads neck. Non-married couples have sex and they are filmed lying in bed, implicitly naked, but little is actually shown.


Occasional extreme profanity.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Plenty of drinking by all the young 20-somethings.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that the subject matter of this PG-13 movie is too mature for younger kids. Viewers will see drinking, fist fights, and some sexual material, from kissing to couples in bed together (though nudity is only implied).

Parents say

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What's the story?

New Yorker Miranda arrives in Nashville with a couple of songs and a dream of becoming a country music star. Miranda (Samantha Mathis) immediately runs into brooding singer/songwriter James (River Phoenix) and the two begin a love-hate relationship. Unsuccessful at her first audition, Miranda takes a waitressing job and moves in with Linda-Lou (Sandra Bullock), a southern belle determined to find herself a career. Miranda is also pursued by the lovesick Kyle (Dermot Mulroney), a fellow Yankee songwriter. Her music career stalls and Miranda is advised to "dig in deeper." After a fraught courtship, she and James marry, but the relationship hits the rocks when the two struggle to discover their individual identities. Miranda thinks about heading back to New York, but decides to put her pain into her writing, and finally pens a successful song. She's on her way.

Is it any good?


This isn't a fresh story, but here it's told with a disarmingly direct charm. It's an earnest take on finding love -- and finding yourself in the process. Still, the movie isn't entirely successful. It's hurt by actors who aren't really singers. The only actor who convincingly plays a musical performer is River Phoenix, who was actively pursuing a musical career before he died.


Phoenix's character name (James) is also apropos, since he spends the bulk of the movie doing his best James Dean impression, staring down and mumbling his lines. Sometimes it works, sometimes it's annoying. The rest of the actors do a fine job, especially Sandra Bullock as the slightly loopy Southern belle.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about predictable endings. It's no surprise that Miranda finds her voice at the end; do you like movies that end happily or do you prefer more ambiguous endings? Why do we see movies when we know what's going to happen in them?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:July 16, 1993
DVD release date:June 20, 1995
Cast:Dermot Mulroney, River Phoenix, Samantha Mathis
Director:Peter Bogdanovich
Studio:Paramount Pictures
Topics:Music and sing-along
Run time:116 minutes
MPAA rating:PG
MPAA explanation:some language.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Teen, 14 years old Written byTeenageCritic100 August 1, 2015

Country music comedy-drama is worth watching.

This was one of River Phoenix's last movies, and while it's not one of the best he's ever done, it's definitely not the worst, either. The film follows an aspiring country-music singer who moves to Nashville and attempts to follow her dreams. While there, she meets two singers who are both interested in her and makes some good friends. The music is pretty good considering the actors sang themselves. There are a few curse words - f**k, s**t, and some lighter ones, I think. There's a few scenes of a couple kissing and one of them naked in bed together, though nothing is shown. Two characters get in a physical fight. People smoke and drink (one of them drives while under the influence). This movie isn't anything a mature 13 year old couldn't handle. There are good messages about following your dreams and your heart. All in all, I thought The Thing Called Love was pretty good!
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking


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