A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What 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.
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What's the story?
White Mike (Chace Crawford) used to roam the halls of one of New York’s coveted private schools -- until his mother died from cancer and his father’s restaurant went bankrupt. So off the grid he went, dropping out and selling weed to his former classmates. He doesn't use (or even drink) himself, and he won’t deal Twelve -- the new drug hitting the streets -- but his Harlem supplier, Lionel (Curtis Jackson, aka 50 Cent), will. On a not-so-typical Thursday night, White Mike’s cousin Charlie (Jeremy Allen White) leaves a message on his phone, begging for him to call back. But by the time he does, it’s too late. Meanwhile, White Mike’s best friend (Emma Roberts) seems eager to shed her good-girl image, and the city’s It Girl, Sara Ludlow (Esti Ginzburg), has convinced yet another boy (Rory Culkin) to give into her whims and host a birthday bash to end all birthday bashes.
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.
Talk to your kids about ...
What role do the teens' parents play in their lives? If they’re absent, what affect does that have on their kids?
What is the movie saying about the state of families right now, at least within this social circle? Do you think it’s an accurate portrait, or could it be exaggerated for artistic reasons?
- In theaters: August 6, 2010
- On DVD or streaming: December 28, 2010
- Cast: 50 Cent, Chace Crawford, Emma Roberts, Rory Culkin
- Director: Joel Schumacher
- Studio: Hannover House
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 117 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: strong drug content, alcohol abuse, language, sexual material, brief nudity and some violence - all involving teens
- Last updated: September 21, 2019
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