A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
What's the story?
Grady Tripp (Michael Douglas), a college professor whose award- winning book was published seven years ago, is under pressure from all sides. His third young, beautiful wife has just left him. His mistress Sara (Frances McDormand), who is married to his boss, is pregnant with his child. His best student James (Tobey Maguire) seems suicidal while young student Hannah (Katie Holmes) has a crush on Tripp. And his editor Crabtree (Robert Downey, Jr.) is pressing him for a new manuscript. Tripp has a manuscript but does not want to show it to anyone. He's irresponsible, but he cares about Sara more than he knew and he cares about James more than he thought he could. James is drunk on words and stories. Tripp may have been that way once, but now he resorts to drugs. All the characters here are coping with problems and yet all are remarkably honorable and helpful. In another movie, Tripp might think of stealing James' manuscript, but in this one, he lets it replace his own, solving both James' and Crabtree's problems.
Is it any good?
This movie has a lot in common with its main character: Both are shambling and directionless, with a literary gloss and great deal of charm and intelligence. And both need all of that to be forgiven for their many failings. Tripp is in something of a stupor, not just from alcohol and drugs, but from success, and failure. He still has James' passion for writing, but he no longer has the innocence and sense of possibilities to "make the choices" necessary. When he says, "Sometimes people just need to be rescued," he is talking about himself as much as James.
This grand mess of a movie has many pleasures, including a terrific soundtrack, marvelous performances, and a beguiling but highly improbable ending. Tripp's colleague says that everyone has a story. What gets you from there to writing? He mentions faith, and Tripp mentions keeping at it. One reason is that stories like this one, highly imperfect but worthwhile, are what help us get to the ones that really make it all the way there.
Talk to your kids about ...
- In theaters: February 25, 2000
- On DVD or streaming: March 13, 2001
- Cast: Frances McDormand, Michael Douglas, Tobey Maguire
- Director: Curtis Hanson
- Studio: Paramount Pictures
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 111 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: language and drug content
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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