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Western Stars

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Western Stars Movie Poster Image
Moving Springsteen concert movie about reflection, change.
  • PG
  • 2019
  • 83 minutes

Parents say

age 8+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Movie is deeply introspective and philosophical, rarely hitting on any concrete lessons but describing things like how hard it is to trust and to love and how easy it is to fall back on hurt. Addresses the work it takes to learn from your mistakes and find your "better angels."

Positive Role Models & Representations

Springsteen may be something of a role model, not only as a successful and accomplished musician but also as someone who's worked hard to improve and learn for decades.

Violence

Springsteen describes himself, in his younger years, as "destructive." "If I loved you, I would hurt you," he says. (This is implied as emotional hurt, rather than physical hurt.) Song lyric about being "shot by John Wayne." Song about a stuntman, with lyrics "drive fast, fall hard."

Sex

Couple kisses in old film footage.

Language

A use of "bulls--t," use of "damn."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Frequent mentions and depictions of drinking, both social (in bars) and alone and involving spirits of all kinds (beer, whiskey, tequila, gin, etc.). The barn where the concert takes place includes a bar, and spectators are shown with drinks on their tables. Springsteen drinks a shot before the show starts. A song lyric says "tired of the pills." Mentions of "Viagra." People smoking cigars, cigarettes in old film footage.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Western Stars is a concert film featuring Bruce Springsteen performing the entirety of his same-named 2019 album. It's aching, introspective, and intimate, evoking the American West but also the human condition, and it's a must-see for tween music fans and up. Expect frequent depictions and descriptions of drinking. Characters drink socially in bars and sometimes alone in song lyrics; the drinks range from beer to tequila, whiskey, and gin. Kissing and smoking are shown in vintage footage, Viagra is mentioned, and a song lyric references "pills." Another song lyric mentions being "shot by John Wayne," and Springsteen describes his "destructive" past in which he would "hurt people," though apparently emotionally rather than physically. Language includes a use of "bulls--t" and a use of "damn."

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byThomas280 November 14, 2019

Springsteen shows the next generation why he's still the Boss

There's no objectionable content aside from the fact that it's just mature. The concepts that Springsteen discusses are mature, but children can defin... Continue reading

There aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.

What's the story?

In WESTERN STARS, musician Bruce Springsteen assembles a 30-piece orchestra, along with his backing band and backup singers, in the century-old barn on his property in northern New Jersey. In front of a small audience, they perform the 13 songs from Springsteen's 2019 album Western Stars, plus an encore. In between numbers, Springsteen tells stories of how each song -- based in memories, hurt, reflection, and perseverance -- came to be.

Is it any good?

At age 70, Springsteen forgoes his more typical, invigorating concert experience for an intimate, reflective live show; it's achingly beautiful, tender, and personal, with strains of regret and hope. Marking Springsteen's directorial debut alongside Thom Zimny, Western Stars could rank with the best concert films ever made, with its combination of wonderful songs and touching orchestration and Springsteen's confessional asides. The songs are surprisingly moving; they're great stories of everyday Americans, but -- rather than having the heart-pumping energy of Springsteen's early work -- these songs are wistful and quiet, looking back to find a way to look forward. It's possibly one of the best collections in the singer's career.

In the interludes, Springsteen talks about the songs (he says he doesn't know why he keeps writing songs about cars) and about the characters in the songs -- such as an old cowboy actor -- and how they're based on his own feelings and discoveries. He talks about his former destructive behaviors and how he's worked to put them behind him. He talks about how everyone has "broken pieces," and how, maybe, we might find someone whose broken pieces fit with our own. Western Stars evokes cowboy imagery, certainly, but it's also romantic and philosophical. Springsteen seems to understand the human condition, and, after spending this time with him, we feel a little bit of peace.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Western Stars' depiction of alcohol/drinking. Does the movie glamorize it? Are there consequences? Why does that matter?

  • What does Springsteen mean when he talks about his "destructive" days? How did he address this situation?

  • Why, as Springsteen says, is it so hard for humans to trust and love and so easy for them to embrace pain?

  • Are the subjects that Springsteen sings and talks about at age 70 applicable to younger people? Why or why not?

  • How do concert films compare with live concerts? Which other concert films have you seen?

Movie details

Themes & Topics

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