A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this mature film about an online predator who targets unsuspecting teens is often disturbing to watch but could spark extremely important conversations between parents and teens about Internet safety. The predator's "grooming" and seduction of a 14-year-old girl are explicitly drawn, and the damage inflicted upon the girl and her family by the assault and its aftermath is intense and disturbing. Many scenes include sexual dialogue -- in conversation, in text message form, and on the phone -- and the community in which the story is set is portrayed as highly sexualized, essentially encouraging early sexual activity. There are violent fantasies in which the girl's father imagines a brutal attack on his daughter and projects his own revenge on the villain using fists and a gun. Language includes: "f--k," "s--t," "whore," "blow job," and more. Characters, including teens, drink in social situations, and there's a suicide attempt using prescription drugs.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Fourteen-year-old Annie Cameron (Liana Liberato) is charmed and intrigued by "Charlie," a bright, funny teen she meets in an online chat room. As their texting and phone calls become more intense, Annie shields her parents from both Charlie's "forgivable" lies and the growing sexuality in their relationship. Then, a secretive meeting reveals that Charlie is, in fact, an adult -- who proceeds to lead the reluctant but still trusting Annie to a motel, where he takes advantage of her inexperience and has "quasi-consensual" sex with her. When Annie's concerned best friend realizes what's happened and confides in a school official, Annie's parents (Catherine Keener and Clive Owen) and the authorities are notified. The Camerons are horrified -- they're wracked with guilt for not having protected their child and devastated for her. Annie, still in Charlie's thrall, is furious. As disappointing efforts are made to heal Annie and find the predator, the family members become increasingly unstable and at odds with one another.
Is it any good?
Difficult subject matter is handled here with intelligence, restraint, and an effort to avoid trite resolutions and cliched characters. Director David Schwimmer, along with the writers and superb actors (particularly Liberato in a very challenging role), has created an unsettling, often creepy story that serves as a cautionary tale for parents.
The content is definitely on the mature side for teens, but those who do watch (along with their parents) are likely to come away with an important lesson about the importance of online safety. Parents can take that opportunity to emphasize the need for both privacy and skepticism when it comes to the Internet -- we have plenty of tips for talking about both.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how teens can stay safe online. Why is it so important to protect your privacy? What happens when you share information about yourself on the Web?
What are the dangers of online anonymity? Does your family use any tools to lessen the risk of being exploited or abused via the Internet?
Teens: If you found out that someone you knew had an experience like Annie's, what would you do? Do you think it was handled correctly in the movie? What are your options in a situation like this?
How did Annie feel about herself after the assault? What finally made her face the truth?
- In theaters: April 1, 2011
- On DVD or streaming: July 26, 2011
- Cast: Catherine Keener, Clive Owen, Liana Liberato
- Director: David Schwimmer
- Studio: Millennium Films
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 106 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: disturbing material involving the rape of a teen, language, sexual content and some violence
- Last updated: February 18, 2020
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