By Tracey Petherick,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Edgy glam rock drama has sex, drugs, strong language.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Gender diversity and significance of inclusion are key themes throughout, as is value of being yourself. Friendship is celebrated. Despite disapproval from some characters, there are lots of positive references regarding homosexuality and gender fluidity. Hedonism, drug use, and casual sex are prominent.
Positive Role Models
Curt Wild and Brian Slade are open-minded and inclusive, confident in their sexuality, courageous in their lifestyle choices. But they are also narcissistic and debauched. Male characters wear makeup, glitter, high heels, spandex, are portrayed as glamorous and liberated. Various characters embrace being seen as "outcasts," showing solidarity and supporting one another. Journalist Arthur Stuart is dedicated to finding out the truth, but also has alternative motives.
Violence & Scariness
A gun is fired at a concert, shooting a character in the chest. They fall back with blood on their clothes. Examples of homophobia throughout, including name-calling and physical bullying. A kid is given electroshock therapy -- not shown on camera. Concertgoers throw bottles at the stage.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
LGBTQ+ relationships are portrayed, celebrated. Several scenes with characters kissing, fully clothed. Character shown giving oral sex to someone, who then blows a kiss to a kid who sees them. Character lying face down on a bed with bottom showing and someone standing behind them. Character talks about "the skin between my vagina and my anus." A rock star is naked from the waist up, puts a hand down their pants, simulates masturbating as part of stage show. They then pull down their pants and dance manically, displaying genitals and backside. One brief sex scene featuring blow-up dolls is speeded up and stylized as part of a music video. One graphic but out-of-focus sex scene shows some nudity. Group sex scenes show naked bodies, people writhing together but no explicit sex. Character simulates oral sex against a guitar while on stage. Character shown masturbating; no graphic details. A couple seen cuddling in bed, naked. Tender sex scene shot from a distance. Older character places a hand on a younger character's thigh in an inappropriate and unwanted way.
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Casual use of curse words and insults including "f--k," "f--ker," "f--king," "s--t," "bloody hell," "you must be mental," "piss off," "Mistress Boner," "slut," "scrubber," and "bitching." "Jesus" also used as an exclamation. Frequent demeaning language and British homophobic slurs including "ponced up," "bleeding woofters," "pansy," "shirt lifter," and "f--king poof." Behavior of gay characters is referred to as "shameful" and "filthy."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Casual smoking throughout. Several scenes with characters drinking alcohol. One character is shown inebriated, the implication being that they are on drugs. They later talk about being on heroin and methadone. Large pile of white powder on a table with someone scooping some up with a razor blade. Character seen snorting white powder from someone's naked buttocks. Next to them is a large pile of powder.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Velvet Goldmine is an intense musical drama as flamboyant as it is moving, with plenty of mature content, including full-frontal nudity, sex, strong language, and drug use. Largely set in the glam rock era of the 1970s, it celebrates gender fluidity and sexual expression. Several LGBTQ+ characters, including fictional glam rock stars Curt Wild (Ewan McGregor) and Brian Slade (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers), are portrayed as self-confident, courageous, and fun-loving. Though there are scenes of bigotry and homophobia throughout, key themes include the value of inclusion and the joy of being yourself, even if you feel different. There is plenty of strong language, with regular use of "f--k" and a lot of offensive -- often homophobic -- name-calling. Sex and nudity are also prominent, with a number of sex scenes including group sex and Wild on stage dancing with his pants down, flaunting his genitals. Characters smoke and drink, with some scenes featuring drug references and cocaine use.
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What's the Story?
In VELVET GOLDMINE, journalist Arthur Stuart (Christian Bale) is writing a story about the hoax shooting of glam rock star Brian Slade (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers) in a publicity stunt 10 years earlier. Through interviews with Slade's former lovers and associates, Stuart -- once a fan of Slade's who was personally inspired by his life and music -- uncovers a world of hedonism, creativity, and sexual expression in 1970s London. But will he ever discover what actually happened to Brian Slade -- or where he is now?
Is It Any Good?
Part musical, part mystery, and part love story -- or stories, to be more precise -- this 1998 release is a visual and aural feast. It's packed full of cultural references, compelling characters, and identity-boosting messages. But unfortunately, when packaged all together, Velvet Goldmine somehow fails to hit the mark. Ranging from otherworldly and intriguing to downright confusing, the story flips back and forth between eras and characters, never quite giving you time to fully invest in any of them.
Unashamedly inspired by David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust era, it's bursting with extravagant artistic expression. The soundtrack is a brilliant combination of original songs and 1970s classics, while the fashion and staging is gloriously psychedelic. And though many of the characters are joyously flamboyant and confident in their gender fluidity, the story doesn't shy away from the challenges of being different and the darker side of the music industry. Ultimately, among the sometimes bewildering mashup of sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll, there are some genuinely tender moments and an overarching celebration of diversity.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about whether or not the characters in Velvet Goldmine are good role models. Many of them are creative, self-confident, and daring. But they can also be self-indulgent and decadent. Which characters displayed the most positive personality traits, and what were those character strengths?
Talk about what role sex played in the movie. Was it affectionate? Respectful? Parents, talk to your teens about your own values regarding sex and relationships.
How did the movie depict drinking, smoking, and drug use? Were they glamorized? Were there consequences? Why is that important?
Discuss the strong language used in the movie. Did it seem necessary, or excessive? What did it contribute to the movie?
Gender identity is a strong theme throughout the movie. Talk about how attitudes toward sexuality and gender have changed over the decades.
- In theaters: November 6, 1998
- On DVD or streaming: May 18, 1999
- Cast: Christian Bale, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Ewan McGregor
- Director: Todd Haynes
- Studio: Miramax
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Music and Sing-Along
- Run time: 118 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: strong sexual content, nudity, language and drug use
- Last updated: January 3, 2023
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.
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