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"THE GRASS HARP"
(1995) (Edward Furlong, Sissy Spacek) (PG)

Alcohol/
Drugs
Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Frightening/
Tense Scenes
Guns/
Weapons
Mild Minor Moderate Minor Minor
Imitative
Behavior
Jump
Scenes
Music
(Scary/Tense)
Music
(Inappropriate)
Profanity
Minor Minor Minor None Minor
Sex/
Nudity
Smoking Tense Family
Scenes
Topics To
Talk About
Violence
Minor Mild Moderate Mild Moderate


QUICK TAKE:
Drama: In a small southern town in the late 1930's, a teenager, a businesswoman's sister and her housemaid move into a tree house to protest the businesswoman's behavior toward her sister.
PLOT:
Collin Fenwick (EDWARD FURLONG) moves in with two sisters, his father's cousins, after the death of his mother. Verena Talbo (SISSY SPACEK), is a proper businesswoman who owns a great deal of property in their small town and Dolly Talbo (PIPER LAURIE) is her more gentle sister known for her homemade medical remedy elixir of which only she knows the recipe. When Verena and Chicago businessman Morris Ritz (JACK LEMMON) plot to get that recipe and market the elixir for a profit, Collin, Dolly and Catherine (NELL CARTER), their housemaid, all move into a tree house to protest the plan. Soon the whole town is up in arms over their actions that also draws supporters such as retired Judge Charlie Cool (WALTER MATTHAU) and young rebel Riley (SEAN PATRICK FLANERY). When a traveling evangelist, Sister Ida (MARY STEENBURGEN), arrives in town with her big production revival shows, and soon sides with Dolly and her party, the townsfolk, including the Sheriff (JOE DON BAKER) and Reverend (CHARLES DURNING), decide to take matters into their own hands to stop all of this "nonsense."
WILL KIDS WANT TO SEE IT?
It's doubtful. Neither the actors nor the story will draw them to this movie.
WHY THE MPAA RATED IT: PG
For mild language and thematic elements.
CAST AS ROLE MODELS:
  • EDWARD FURLONG plays his usual slacker character with low self-esteem and bad posture.
  • PIPER LAURIE plays a woman who decides to break free from her overbearing sister.
  • WALTER MATTHAU plays a retired judge who's looking for romance to fill the void in his life.
  • CAST, CREW, & TECHNICAL INFO

    HOW OTHERS RATED THIS MOVIE


    OUR TAKE: 6 out of 10
    This is a small and quirky movie with a big and talented cast. It's a joy watching these wonderful actors and actresses create such memorable characters, and it's always a pleasure to see Matthau and Lemmon together again in a movie (albeit for only a brief moment together). Many will find the film to be rather boring and slow moving, but this is a character driven plot. If given time, viewers might just come to enjoy these down home characters. The plot does do a random jig here and there, but there's enough here to hold an adult audience's attention that's looking for an alternative to slam bang action films. We give it a 6 out of 10.
    OUR WORD TO PARENTS:
    There isn't a great deal of material to object to in this movie. Two deaths (and one reported suicide) occur and while not glossed over, don't seem to have great or long lasting emotional impact on the characters. There's a mild amount of smoking and drinking and just minor profanity (the same stuff you'd hear on regular TV). Sexually related material is limited to a brief scene where a character buys condoms (he calls them "weasel wrappers") and a traveling evangelist has fifteen kids and no husband to show for them. While kids will probably avoid this film, you should preview our category listings if you think they might be seeing this.

    ALCOHOL OR DRUG USE
  • Verena tells Collin to get Morris "a drink."
  • The family has wine with dinner.
  • The sheriff tells his deputy to round up the other recently deputized men and sober them up if needed.
  • Maud tells Collin that there's going to be wine punch at a Halloween party and that she expects "there will be drunkenness."
  • Catherine drinks something from a bottle that might be liquor.
  • BLOOD/ GORE
  • Collin has a bloody lip after being punched by another boy.
  • DISRESPECTFUL/BAD ATTITUDE
  • It's said that Verena is only interested in two things: Owning property and people.
  • Verena and Morris want Dolly to give up her secret herbal medicine recipe so that they can make money from it.
  • A woman calls Catherine, "nigger."
  • Verena discovers that Morris has stolen money from her safe and left town.
  • The Reverend confiscates Ida's revival money saying that it's his.
  • FRIGHTENING/TENSE SCENES
  • Dolly has a stroke while dancing with Collin and collapses on the steps.
  • GUNS/WEAPONS
  • Rifle: A gunshot is heard and then Riley is seen carrying his rifle and a dead squirrel.
  • IMITATIVE BEHAVIOR
  • Catherine throws a cat out the door after finding it after her goldfish.
  • Phrases: "Shut up," "Trollop," and "Old fool."
  • JUMP SCENES
  • Riley fires his rifle at a squirrel and the gunshot is unexpected coming on the heels of a very quiet scene.
  • MUSIC (SCARY/TENSE)
  • There's minor suspenseful music in several scenes.
  • MUSIC (INAPPROPRIATE)
  • None.
  • PROFANITY
  • 5 hells, 3 damns, and 2 uses of "Oh my God," and 1 use each of "God," "My God," and "Lordy Lord" as exclamations.
  • SEX/NUDITY
  • Riley buys "weasel wrappers" (condoms) at a drug store (but they're not seen).
  • Sister Ida is called a "trollop" by the Reverend for having fifteen children and no sign of a father. Later it's said that Ida's oldest son's father is her sister's husband.
  • Dolly asks Ida what it's like to have a man's love (sex). Ida says it's the touch of a man's hand that's special.
  • SMOKING
  • Riley offers cigarettes to Collin, Dolly and Catherine in the tree house. They accept and later are seen smoking again.
  • Riley gives Ida a cigarette.
  • Ida offers Dolly a cigarette and they both smoke.
  • TENSE FAMILY SCENES
  • The funeral of Collin's mother is seen. His father is very distraught and many people in attendance are crying.
  • At home after the funeral, Collin's father is smashing things from anger and grief. Because of this, Collin has to go and live with Verena and Dolly.
  • Judge Cool's son thinks he's been "unbalanced" (mentally unstable) since the Judge's wife died years ago.
  • Riley admits to Collin that years ago he had to bust down a door in his house because his mother was trying to drown his sister. And later, he says, they took his mother away.
  • Dolly has a stroke while dancing with Collin and collapses on the steps and later dies. Collin and the others must deal with her death.
  • TOPICS TO TALK ABOUT
  • A parent dying, and the child resultingly having to go and live with strangers.
  • Collin (as the adult narrator) says that his father had an accident after his wife's funeral (he drove his car off a fifty-foot cliff). But Collin says he knows it was no accident (implying suicide).
  • Both Morris and Dolly want to have chicken brains with their fried chicken. Most kids will wonder why and think it's gross.
  • VIOLENCE
  • Collin's father breaks and throws things in their house after the funeral of his wife.
  • Collin (as the adult narrator) says that his father had an accident after his wife's funeral (he drove his car off a fifty-foot cliff). But Collin says he knows it was no accident (implying suicide).
  • Collin pushes a girl when she says that Dolly's "gone" (insane) and that he's the same. Another boy then punches Collin who's later seen with a bloody lip.
  • Catherine stretches Collin to make him grow taller and does so by grabbing him around the neck and pulling upwards.
  • Catherine threatens to slap a woman "bow legged."
  • The Sheriff grabs Collin by his leg in the tree house and Dolly throws a bucket of water on him. He falls and lands on others at the bottom of the tree.
  • Dolly absent-mindedly drops her water bucket and it lands on top of another woman's head, knocking her to the ground.
  • Catherine smacks Riley on the back of his head with a towel for earlier snatching her false teeth.
  • Two new deputies arrest Catherine. Collin comes to her rescue and kicks one deputy in the crotch and slaps a fish against the other's head and then runs and hides.
  • The Reverend falls to the ground after a tug of war with Ida over her "money" clothes' line.
  • Riley admits to Collin that years ago he had to bust down a door in his house because his mother was trying to drown his sister. And later, he says, they took his mother away.
  • Ida and her kids join the tree house group and climb up into the trees as the Sheriff and others approach. Verena pushes Charlie Cool away from the base of the tree. Some of Ida's kids lower a lasso that is then tightened around the Reverend's neck. The kids throw and fire slingshot propelled rocks at the people on the ground. A deputy raises his gun, but is knocked aside and the gun discharges and Collin falls from the tree house. It turns out he was shot in the shoulder, but will be okay.



  • Reviewed October 18, 1996

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