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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
The movie presents a pretty bleak portrait of teen life -- everyone (from kids to parents, A students to dropouts) is messed up. But there is also a sense that reliance on substances is a dangerous game.
Positive Role Models
It's hard to find anyone who has it together in this movie. Most parents are MIA, literally and emotionally, self-obsessed and deluded. Their teenagers are lost, confused, enraged, addicted, or murderous -- and maybe all of the above.
Violence & Scariness
A teenager is shot during a drug deal gone awry, as is a witness. A rampage ends bloodily. A disturbed character punches walls and threatens his brother with a sword. Teens talk trash at a basketball court, and the tiff escalates into a fistfight.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Discussions about various sex acts. A teen's porno stash is revealed. Couples grope and make out (mostly in darkened rooms). Girls take photos of each other in lingerie. One character offers her virginity in exchange for drugs; her partner's behind is fleetingly revealed as they undress. Boys talk about how to "get laid."
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Frequent use of everything from "goddammit" to "s--t" to "f--k."
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Products & Purchases
Lots of brand name-dropping, including Marc Jacobs and various restaurants. Many top private schools are also mentioned, including Dalton, Hotchkiss, Andover, Chapin, and Collegiate.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Teens drink a lot, everything from beer to hard liquor. A character deals weed and is often shown selling it; his customers are often shown smoking it. Another drug, the titular Twelve, makes its rounds. Lots of references to weed. Discussions about prescription drugs.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that although this heavy drama stars many actors and actresses popular with tweens and teens -- including Chace Crawford and Emma Roberts -- it's too graphic and mature for younger viewers (even fans of Crawford's Gossip Girl are likely to find some of the behavior depicted here shocking). Teens are shown drinking and doing drugs, exchanging sex for drugs and other favors, and acting out in very violent ways. There are also many references to sex acts, some scenes in which teen characters are scantily clad and in the middle of intimate acts, and heaps of swearing. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
It's a powerful film, but it's peopled with so many characters that it's hard to keep track of all their issues and personal dramas, let alone care. TWELVE certainly has the right look for its subject mater -- and that's not a reference to the conspicuously consumed and chicer-than-chic outfits that its private school types are wearing (though it does get those right, too). Cinematography-wise, the film admirably melds grittiness and slickness with its blown-out white, inky black, and dark-jewel-toned images. Plot-wise, there's plenty to draw viewers in, too; grief -- Mike's over his mother's death, and most of the kids' over their parents' deep neglect -- suffuses everything.
But, oh, the heavy-handedness! It all begins with woeful voiceover narration delivered in (naturally) a gravelly voice -- courtesy of Kiefer Sutherland -- that tells viewers everything we need to know. So why should we bother to watch? The lines themselves are well-written, but they sound self conscious, essentially announcing, "This is edgy stuff." (The Nick McDonell novel on which it's based fares much better.) Crawford's White Mike is a darker role than his Nate in Gossip Girl, but given the movie's setting, it doesn't feel like he's stretching too much. Ultimately, Twelve feels like Gossip Girl Gone Wild.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.