[Screen It]


(1999) (Meryl Streep, Aidan Quinn) (PG)

Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Tense Scenes
Mild Minor Moderate None Minor
Mild None None None Mild
Smoking Tense Family
Topics To
Talk About
Mild Minor Heavy Mild Mild

Drama: After her husband walks out on her, a woman tries to set up and then maintain a beloved but tenuously supported violin class in an East Harlem school.
Roberta Guaspari's (MERYL STREEP) Navy husband has just run off with a friend of hers, leaving the stay at home mom to care for their young sons, Nick (MICHAEL ANGARANO) and Lexi (HENRY DINHOFFER) and forcing them to live with her mother, Assunta (CLORIS LEACHMAN).

A chance encounter with a former classmate and current writer, Brian Sinclair (AIDAN QUINN), however, changes her life forever. Knowing her love for music, Brian suggests that Roberta contact Janet Williams (ANGELA BASSETT), the principal of an East Harlem school, about staring a violin class there.

With few other options, Roberta packs up the kids, heads into a neighborhood completely foreign to her, and just manages to convince Janet to hire on her a temporary basis, much to the chagrin of Dennis Rausch (JOSH PAIS), the resident, but uninspired music instructor.

At first, things are rough. The students, including DeSean (JADE YORKER), a troublemaker, Lucy (VICTORIA GOMEZ), who has a penchant for snapping her fingers, and Guadalupe (ZOE STERNBACH-TAUBMAN), a young girl in leg braces, are either uninterested in learning the violin or simply no good at it. Another student, Naeem (JUSTIN SPAULDING) is pulled from the class by his bitter mother.

To make matters worse, Roberta's staying with Brian, the only person in town she knows. Despite a romance breaking out between them, however, he then leaves for a several month writing assignment. And except for second grade teacher Isabel Vasquez (GLORIA ESTEFAN), none of the other instructors like her.

Yet she perseveres and years later, despite a confrontational teaching manner, has become quite successful and admired. Her kids, Nick (CHARLIE HOFHEIMER) and Lexi (KIERAN CULKIN) are now teens and conspire to fix her up on blind dates, such as with Dan Paxton (JAY O. SANDERS). Even so, her attention remains on her course that, due to budget cutbacks, suddenly faces academic extinction.

Thus, with the aid of Janet, photographer Dorothea von Haeften (JANE LEEVES) and a host of acclaimed violinists, including Itzhak Perlman, Arnold Steinhardt and Isaac Stern, Roberta sets out to save her beloved violin class.

Fans of anyone in the cast (including singer Gloria Estefan) or of school/classical music just might, but this doesn't seem like a film that will be much of a draw for most kids.
For brief mild language and sensuality.
  • MERYL STREEP plays a woman who rebuilds her life after her husband leaves her and their sons to fend for themselves. A dedicated musician/teacher, Roberta works hard -- and sometimes in a polite, but confrontational manner -- to teach her students and keep her class alive.
  • ANGELA BASSETT plays the harried principal who tries to help Roberta's class when she can.
  • AIDAN QUINN plays a writer who helps Roberta land a job, sleeps with her once, but then hits the road upon Roberta's insistence since he won't completely commit to a relationship with her.
  • CLORIS LEACHMAN plays Roberta's mother who's concerned about her daughter's well-being.
  • JANE LEEVES plays a photographer who helps plan Roberta's benefit concert.
  • KIERAN CULKIN and CHARLIE HOFHEIMER play Roberta's sons as teenagers who have a little bit of a defiant teen attitude, but are otherwise good kids and help their mother.


    Curious if this title is entertaining, any good, and/or has any artistic merit?
    Then read OUR TAKE of this film.

    (Note: The "Our Take" review of this title examines the film's artistic merits and does not take into account any of the possibly objectionable material listed below).

    The following is a brief summary of the content found in this PG-rated drama. The rating comes from mild profanity (including a possible "s" word -- although it might be incomplete), and sensuality (in the form of Roberta and Brian apparently spending the night together -- we see her still in bed the next morning).

    A handful of bad attitudes are present, including Roberta's husband running off with her friend and abandoning her and the kids (we only see the family tension aftermath of this). Some drinking and smoking are present, and some off-screen lethal violence is mentioned (a student is killed in a drive-by shooting, another student reports that a family member was mugged and killed).

    Beyond that and some actions/language that may be imitated, however, the film's remaining categories are relatively void of any major objectionable content. As always, though, should you still be concerned about the film's appropriateness for yourself or anyone in your home, we suggest that you more closely examine our detailed content listings.

  • In a photo we see Roberta, her husband and another couple with wine.
  • Brian brings over some champagne to celebrate Roberta's new job.
  • Roberta has what may be a drink in front of her.
  • Roberta drinks a beer.
  • A construction worker drinks beer.
  • Some family members of a student drink beer while watching TV.
  • Nick has a tiny bit of blood from his nose after getting into a schoolyard fight.
  • We hear that Roberta's husband ran off with her friend.
  • The school's resident music teacher, Dennis, doesn't like Roberta moving into his territory and doesn't support her. Nor does he treat his students with any respect.
  • Some of Roberta's first students act unruly toward her.
  • A student's mother pulls her son out of Roberta's class, claiming he has more important things to learn than the violin (what she calls "dead white men's music") and isn't happy that a white woman has come to their school to "rescue" the students when they didn't ask to be rescued (Roberta later tells her this isn't so and that she just needed a job).
  • The ex-cons Roberta has hired to work on her house apparently steal materials from other homes (wallboard comes with wallpaper already on it, etc...).
  • With his family's upheaval as the underlying cause, Nick develops a bad attitude, argues with his mom and gets into a fight at school.
  • Roberta tries to put old or fake parking tickets on her car so that she doesn't get any new ones for parking violations (since the school doesn't offer her parking).
  • None.
  • We see a large cannon on a Navy ship (in a photograph).
  • Although we don't see any of it, we hear that one of Roberta's students was shot and killed in a drive by shooting.
  • Phrases: "Idiot(s)," "Jerk," "Bitch," "Drop dead," ‘Jeez," and "You sound like sh..." (that may or may not have the last word completely said).
  • Roberta tries to put old or fake parking tickets on her car so that she doesn't get any new ones for parking violations (since the school doesn't offer her parking).
  • Nick and Lexi place a dating classified ad in the paper for their mom without her knowledge or permission.
  • None.
  • None.
  • None.
  • 1 possible "s" word (Roberta says that the students "sound like sh.." but we couldn't hear if that last word was completed), 2 hells, 2 damns, and 10 uses of "Oh my God," 3 of "Oh God," 2 of "God" and 1 use each of "Jesus" and "My God" as exclamations.
  • Brian and Roberta kiss and it's then implied that they slept together as we see them the next morning (with her still under the covers).
  • Roberta asks Brian that if she didn't meet all of his "needs" that he'd go to someone else to have them met. He replies in theory he might.
  • Roberta shows a bit of cleavage as do other women at a concert.
  • A few miscellaneous characters smoke.
  • Roberta's husband leaves her and their sons (we don't see the actual act). Later, Nick hears and somewhat reacts to Roberta talking to her husband on the phone. Even later, Nick wants to know why their dad has left them.
  • A young student mentions that a family member was mugged and subsequently died.
  • Roberta spends part of Christmas by herself after sending her boys off to be with their father.
  • Roberta and her mom get into a brief fight about Robert's choice of homes and men.
  • Nick fights with his mom, telling her that she's mean and thus no one wants to be with her (thus his reasoning for his dad leaving).
  • A student's father tells Roberta that he and his wife are separating.
  • The true-life story behind this film and Roberta's dedication (along with the help of others) in saving her music class.
  • A young student mentions that a family member was mugged and subsequently died.
  • We see Nick and another student fighting in the schoolyard (one has another in a headlock).
  • Roberta grabs a trowel from Brian's hand and throws it across the room where it shatters a window pane.
  • Although we don't see any of it, we hear that one of Roberta's students was shot and killed in a drive by shooting.
  • Nick slaps Lexi on the head.

  • Reviewed October 13, 1999 / Posted October 29, 1999

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