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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. Shows that, despite a traumatic childhood, an early volatile lifestyle, and being a victim of racism, it's possible to achieve success and happiness.
Recognizes the importance of loyalty, unconditional love, and unyielding support. Presents a vivid picture of both overt and concealed racism in early 20th-century America. The leading character -- a strong, talented, needy woman -- finds the inner strength to match her outward toughness. She loves intensely and is resilient and smart as she learns to channel her gifts into positive action. She overcomes multiple setbacks, not the least of which is her often self-destructive behavior.
African-Americans are represented as part of a diverse culture, with both heroes and villains, who must rise above the prevailing racist worldview. Numerous fistfights and scuffles, some prompted by women fending off male predators. A knife attack. Domestic rage and violence. Racist acts: Hooded white men threaten to set fire to a large tent filled with African-Americans; white men with rifles and shotguns shoot wildly at a passing train. Multiple flashbacks reveal a hysterical little girl who is frightened and furious at an unseen, punishing adult.
Sensuality, sexuality, and infidelity are important to the story. Leading character is bisexual. Lesbian and heterosexual sex scenes include: kissing, embracing, foreplay, and, in one instance, exuberant intercourse.
Partial nudity, including bare breasts. Frequent obscenities, swearing, and name-calling: "f--k," "hell," "s--t," "c--k," "damn," "ass," "bitch. Pervasive drinking and drunkenness. Heroine becomes dependent on alcohol.
Smoking throughout, including instances of what appears to be marijuana. Parents need to know that Bessiewith its tour-de-force performance by Queen Latifahis for mature audiences only. In telling the story of Bessie Smith, a dazzlingly talented blues singer of the s and s, the filmmakers successfully provide an in-depth portrait of the emotional volatility and the music of an African-American icon. Bessie's story is sometimes violent -- Bessie was never one to back away from a physical fight that might victimize her. It's often sexual, portraying both lesbian and heterosexual intimacy with partial nudity.
And the film addresses Bessie's alcohol abuse and the racial politics of the era. Language is adult, with many instances and forms of "f--k," "s--t," and "c--k," as well "bitch," "ass," "hell," and "damn," among others. This award-winning musical drama was originally an HBO special event. Add your rating. In BESSIE, a young woman Queen Latifah gifted with an extraordinary voice, a strong will, and a formidable but untested sense of her own worth creates an astonishing career in early 20th-century America.
Young Bessie dealt with poverty and fear, growing up motherless in a "holler" outside of Chattanooga, Tennessee. Success doesn't come easy for the young singer. Bessie is confronted by predatory men, a segregated music industry, and her own traumatic memories of an abusive older sister Khandi Alexander as she tries to make a career.
However, it isn't long before disappointments, a volatile marriage, infidelities, and an escalating dependence on alcohol find Bessie struggling again, this time perhaps tragically. With what few shaky resources she has left, along with family and friends who've never let her down, Bessie begins the long climb back. Queen Latifah's spellbinding performance as Bessie Smith and sensational music more than compensate for the by-now conventional story of a musical artist's rise and fall.
It's challenging to portray a complicated artist's life in a two-hour movie, but writer-director Dee Rees and her team have managed to avoid the pitfalls of such an effort by focusing on the inner life of Ms. They've chosen powerful moments -- musical performances, key scenes with those Bessie loves and hates, and pivotal racial incidents -- to bring their vision of Bessie Smith to life.
Surrounded by solid actors -- Mo'Nique and Michael Kenneth Williams are standouts -- and with scene after scene of demanding self-revelation, Queen Latifah finds every nuance and gives a vibrant, once-in-a-lifetime performance. It's mature material.
Sex with partial nudity, alcohol, violence, and strong language make it suited for adults and mature teens only. Families can discuss the event s that finally turned Bessie Smith's life around, as it was depicted in this movie. What were the key losses she endured? What was the ificance of the scene in which Bessie looked for a long while in the mirror? Discuss the racism shown in this movie.
How did the scenes of the men attacking the tent show and Bessie's early dealings with white businessmen show different types of racism? What do you think are the effects of such constant instances of bigotry on a specific culture? What prejudices are present today? Obviously, the dialogue and incidents in this movie aren't all authentic; no one knows exactly what was said or done during Bessie's life.
How much do you think filmmakers should take in attempting to portray an actual person? Were you satisfied that you knew the "essence" of Bessie Smith after viewing this movie? Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
See how we rate. Streaming options powered by JustWatch. Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support. Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality. Learn how we rate. Parents' Ultimate Guide to Support our work! Gritty biopic has sex, violence, drinking, great music.
NR minutes. Rate movie.
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