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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Perfect High is an intense story about teen drug addiction that's based on real-life events. The message is valuable for both teens and their parents, but it's not a relaxing journey through a girl's downward spiral from painkiller abuse to heroin use. You'll see teens popping pills, smoking, snorting, and shooting up on their own and at "pharm" parties, all while they deceive their families and steal to fund their habit. Their health suffers, and a main character eventually dies from an overdose. That said, there are many scenes that show them riding drug-induced highs, so it's vital that your teens grasp the story's cautionary message as well. A bedroom scene shows Amanda in a bra giving consent for sex, but nothing beyond making out is shown. Expect a fair amount of strong language ("bitch," "s--t," "goddamn," and so on) as well.
What's the story?
PERFECT HIGH stars Bella Thorne as Amanda, a high school student and dancer who suffers a knee injury that sidelines her just as her team preps for a national competition. Desperate to get back on the dance floor and feeling increasingly left out by her team, she starts overusing prescription painkillers and falls in with new friends Riley (Daniella Bobadilla), Nate (Ross Butler), and Carson (Israel Broussard), who introduce her to "pharm" parties and encourage her escalating use. But when her prescription runs out, she gets desperate and starts using heroin their dealer disguises as a cheap prescription, which eventually has terrifying consequences for them.
Is it any good?
Perfect High is a no-nonsense drama that's brutally honest about the implications of drug use. Thorne delivers a sincere performance as Amanda, a high-achieving, all-around great teen whose world is turned upside down when she finds her spot on the dance team threatened because of an injury. From parents' standpoint, it's helpful that the story is told from this point of view, since it reminds teens (and adults) that there is no such thing as a "typical" user and that pressures of many different kinds can contribute to addiction.
This insightful movie won't win any awards (Thorne's performance really is the acting highlight), but its message is a vital one for teens and their parents. Watching together allows you to discuss not only the most drastic consequences of Amanda's use but also the more subtle ones -- how her relationships suffer, how it impairs her judgment, and how it changes her self-image, for example. This movie gives an honest portrayal of Amanda's ups as well as her downs, so be sure to emphasize how each high is followed by an increasingly devastating low as you talk about this issue with your teens.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how this movie compares to what teens know of drug addiction. Is it something they have firsthand knowledge of? Is it a concern among their peers? Does Amanda's story change their impression of the "typical" drug user?
Teens: Can you relate to the pressures the characters feel that contribute to their substance dependence? Do you ever feel isolated or left out among your friends? How could a person's negative self-image lead them to drugs or alcohol?
Did Amanda's family miss the signs of her addiction? How do you keep the lines of communication open with your teens?
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