Rated: R Grade: ACBA=A-
Directed by: Scott Frank in his directorial debut, who had a hand in writing The Interpreter, Minority Report, Out of Sight, Get Shorty, and Little Man Tate.
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jeff Daniels, Matthew Goode, Isla Fisher, and Bruce McGill.
Summary: Chris Pratt was a high school jock who wrecked his car, killing two friends and giving himself brain damage which makes it hard for him to sequence anything in his life. Working as a bank janitor in a small town, he winds up in league with a sexy girl and her friend who convince him to help them rob the bank.
Entertainment Value: A The other recent movie I saw Gordon-Levitt in was Brick, and I must say that I really enjoy his acting. The characters here are fascinating and intriguing. The directing and writing are truly marvelous, and the thing hangs together like a true work of art with many elements of uncertainty and ambiguity. I had only one real problem with this movie, and it was with one plot development that did not seem believable in connection with the punishment given for a crime. I don’t want to say more for fear of spoiling the plot.
Superficial Content: C Drugs/Alcohol C, Sexuality C, Violence D, Language D, Illegality D. There’s plenty of alcohol use and some drug use. It’s a movie about bank robbery and it has some people getting killed. But the one thing I wanted to praise here was the sexuality. There are a couple of sexual scenes, but I truly admire the director here because he clearly decided to not indulge an R-rated movie in unnecessary eroticism at times when most others surely would have. Yes, there is such content, but it is so clearly restrained that I was shocked in a good way.
Significant Content: B If you think this movie is going to preach its own message, you’re mistaken. But if you understand that a little reflection about the movie will yield plenty of rich insights, then you’ll grasp why I give it a B. Pride, greed, entitlement, power, contentment, forgiveness, and atonement are all major themes in this movie. If you’re looking for a movie that shows humanity’s weaknesses in a fascinating way, this does that.
Artistic/Thought Value: A The movie is full of good themes and things worth talking about, but it was also a directorial masterpiece. You have to understand that most of the good stuff in this movie is not overtly on display. But one of the key demonstrations here was Luvlee’s demonstration of what a stripper does for men. It’s not about the lust so much as about the admiration, and she uses these things to manipulate Chris perfectly.
- Do you think that Luvlee had genuine feelings toward Chris? What do you think of her ultimate decision?
- Why was it possible for Chris to be led into participating in the robbery? What forms of seduction were used on him by Luvlee and by Gary? How did pride, entitlement, and frustration make him willing?
- If Gary had never come along, do you think Chris would have been happy?
- How is Gary like Satan? How does the Christian virtue of contentment protect us from so many of the Devil’s strategite?
- A major theme in this movie is “whoever has the money has the power.” What do you think of this concept? How should Christians approach the use of money and the power that comes with it?
- Many times when we make bad choices, we find ourselves regretting them when we’re still in the process of following through on them. Is it ever too late to try to change direction and do the right thing? How do pride and fear keep us from doing the right thing?
- Have you ever done something that harmed others for which you had difficulty forgiving yourself?
- Why do you think the director chose to use so much violence and profanity but restrained himself on showing nudity and erotic sexuality?
- Filmmakers often defend their use of profanity by saying that to leave it out would make the film feel less real since such language is so common. Do you think this is true? If it is true, do you think that filmmakers are partially to blame for making it true? If so, is it strange of them to use that as an excuse? Do filmmakers have the ability to change cultural norms? If so, do they have an obligation to cultivate better ones, particularly less use of profanity? Consider smoking for comparison. What about sex?
- Do you think the scenes with Kelly represent reality or Chris’s imagination? Did she survive the accident?
- Who in this movie is a true friend? Who is not?
- What do you think of the parenting choices made by Chris’s parents?
- One of the problems Chris suffers from is the inability to not say his sexual urges out loud. How does this problem change his relationships with others? How do you think the world would be different if people were unable to not say their thoughts out loud, particularly their sexual ones?