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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
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
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 & Scariness
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."
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Couple kisses in old film footage.
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A use of "bulls--t," use of "damn."
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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.
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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." To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
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.
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.