The Thing Called Love
A star is born in Nashville.
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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What 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).
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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.
Talk to Your Kids 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?
- In theaters: July 16, 1993
- On DVD or streaming: June 20, 1995
- Cast: Dermot Mulroney, River Phoenix, Samantha Mathis
- Director: Peter Bogdanovich
- Studio: Paramount Pictures
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Music and Sing-Along
- Run time: 116 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: some language.
- Last updated: February 26, 2023
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