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Black or White [2015] [PG-13] - 2.4.5



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Unlike the MPAA we do not assign one inscrutable rating based on age, but 3 objective ratings for SEX/NUDITY, VIOLENCE/GORE and PROFANITY on a scale of 0 to 10, from lowest to highest, depending on quantity and context.

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Sex & Nudity
Violence & Gore
1 to 10


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An alcoholic attorney (Kevin Costner) loses his teenage daughter to death in childbirth when she delivers a biracial child. When the child (Jillian Estelle) is eight years old, his wife (Jennifer Ehle) also dies, leaving him to raise the girl alone. His African American in-laws vie for child custody. Also with Octavia Spencer, Anthony Mackie, Bill Burr, Andre Holland and Mpho Kaoho. Directed by Mike Binder. [2:01]

SEX/NUDITY 2 - We hear that a 23-year-old man impregnated a 17-year-old girl and they were not married; on a witness stand, the girl's father says the two were not dating and that another word is what the man did ("F-word" and "rape" implied).
 At a pool party, a few women wear conservative two-piece bathing suits that reveal midriffs and legs. Teen boys are seen shirtless. A woman wearing a long gown swims in a pool underwater, revealing a little cleavage.
 A woman kisses a man on the cheek twice, after which he wipes off lipstick marks. A woman hugs a man, says WOW, and feels his shoulder muscles several times; embarrassed, he walks away. Two married gay women hug and sit with arms around each other in a few scenes.

VIOLENCE/GORE 4 - A man high on crack cocaine (please see the Substance Use category for more details) and an older stumbling, inebriated man shout at each other around a home swimming pool; the first man pulls a knife, while the second man tells him to leave and kicks the knife into the pool, but they scuffle and fall down; the first man hits the second man in the head with a large coffee mug that breaks, and we see blood flowing on the man's forehead and down his cheek and he falls into the pool, entangles himself in the pool cover, cannot reach the knife and begins to drown as he hallucinates his deceased wife swimming to him and rescuing him; the first man pulls the second man out of the pool and gives mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and the drowning man revives as he begins breathing and spits up water.
 A man fights with a younger man, slamming him into a pile of garbage bags and trash cans in a driveway, helping him up, kicking cans and slamming him into the bags again; the younger man shouts that the first man should get into a bathtub of whiskey and have a white man's bubble bath. A woman slaps her adult son in the face hard in public twice, says, "I love you," and slaps him hard again.
 A blurry hospital scene shows people wearing scrubs walking in the background and a tearful man in the foreground; he tells an associate on the phone that someone will pick up a body later. We hear that a 23-year-old man impregnated a man's 17-year-old daughter and she died in childbirth because she hid from her parents, who could have advised doctors about her congenital heart defect. A tearful man tells his granddaughter of her grandmother's death and she cries. A man on a telephone mentions planning a burial service and a memorial. We see people looking solemn and tearful at a church funeral and hear a hymn being sung.
 A man in a witness stand becomes angry and shouts as he describes how a younger man came into his house one morning at 3:00 AM, high and stoned, demanded money with a knife, and threatened to kidnap his own two-year-old daughter, whom had never met. A woman in a court spectator section stands up and talks loudly without permission several times and the judge tells her to sit down or she can be arrested; the judge stares at the woman and raises a gavel threateningly. In a law office an attorney and a woman upbraid a man; the lawyer shouts, the other man shouts more loudly and then stomps out. Adult siblings argue loudly several times and threaten to "get daddy on the phone." A man argues with a woman about child custody and family lifestyles. Angry overall, a man asks his law partner if he knows where a rectal thermometer goes; the first man slams a conference room chair into the table. A man shouts at his young granddaughter to complete her homework, but she ignores him; he grabs her iPad away, shouts louder and she stomps away to her room.
 We hear in court that a man has a record of possession of drugs with the intent to traffic, assault, and robbery. A man dreams that his dead wife has returned with a shopping bag and cries as she hugs him but says nothing. A man sees the ghost of his wife in the bathroom with a toothbrush in her mouth.
 A man with a hangover one morning (please see the Substance Use category for more details) has uncombed hair and a grimace of pain on his face; he dons dark glasses.

PROFANITY 5 - About 2 F-word derivatives, 14 scatological terms, 7 anatomical terms, 17 mild obscenities, 4 derogatory terms for African-Americans, name-calling (crazy, stupid, goofy, insane, sidekick, old guy, piece of work, drug addict, two-bit, drug addled criminal, crack addict, harsh, "the black people," nice little white family and neighborhood, crack smoking field trip, junkie, crack junkie, inconsiderate, little angel, old drunk White man, ugly, broken down cliché, perfect stereotype, liquored up, Johnny Quest, Klan member), stereotypical references to men, women, children, attorneys, psychiatrists, African-American mothers and families, absent Black fathers, unemployed Blacks, African scholars, Hispanic maids, drug addicts, heavy drinkers, alcoholics, codependents, rich White men, gays, 7 religious profanities (GD), 6 religious exclamations (e.g. Oh God, God, Jesus). [profanity glossary]

SUBSTANCE USE - A man smokes a drugged cigarette on his front steps and switches it for a tobacco cigarette when his mother approaches, a man lights and smokes a drugged cigarette that we hear is crack cocaine, and a man has a criminal record connected with drugs and tells a court room that he has been clean (sober) for two years and wants to continue working on his sobriety. A man pours and drinks a short glass of whiskey from his home bar in dozens of scenes throughout the movie and he drinks more and more after we hear that his wife died, a man drinks whiskey at a wake in his backyard and in an armchair or beside the pool at night and while sitting on a bed and on the couch and he always has the bottle sitting next to him on the floor or is shown carrying it, a man hides a bottle of whiskey behind his nightstand so his young granddaughter will not see it, a man asks another man to attend Alcoholic Anonymous and he refuses, a man hires a driver for the many times he is stumbling drunk and slurring his words and he often sits in the passenger seat drinking a short glass of whiskey, a young girl tells her grand father that she does not like his drinking and he appears drunk in front of her a few times (he stumbles, slurs his words and cries), a woman hides a man's bottle of whiskey under the kitchen sink and he finds it, a woman takes away a man's mug of whiskey and gives him coffee, a man tells another man that a relative/therapist in AA says that the man is probably not alcoholic but a seriously angry [F-word derivative deleted], and a man decides to go away for help with alcoholism for two weeks. A man smokes a cigarette on his porch at home while three other men hold bottles of beer.

DISCUSSION TOPICS - Grandparents raising grandchildren, drug addiction, anger, alcoholism, cultural differences, recovery, hallucinations, abandoned children, race-baiting, class and ethnic differences, custody battles, death, loss, regret, prejudice, grief, honesty, responsibility, trust, relationships, love, family, reconciliation.

MESSAGE - No skin color is a protection from the pain of death, loss and addiction.

Special Keywords: S2 - V4 - P5 - MPAAPG-13

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A CAVEAT: We've gone through several editorial changes since we started covering films in 1992 and some of our early standards were not as stringent as they are now. We therefore need to revisit many older reviews, especially those written prior to 1998 or so; please keep this in mind if you're consulting a review from that period. While we plan to revisit and correct older reviews our resources are limited and it is a slow, time-consuming process.

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