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Higher Ground [2011] [R] - 7.5.5



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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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The story of a woman (Vera Farmiga) and her lifelong journey to discover faith and spirituality, as she goes from being a newlywed, pregnant teenager to a woman involved in a strict Christian sect. Also with Joshua Leonard and Dagmara Dominczyk. Directed by Vera Farmiga. [1:49]

SEX/NUDITY 7 - A teenage boy and a teenage girl kiss passionately, the boy leans on top of the girl lying on the ground, he kisses the girl's neck and sex is implied but not seen, as the boy thrusts and moans (no nudity is visible).
 A woman imagines herself having her feet rubbed suggestively by another woman and sees the other woman lick and suck on her toes and feet in a sexually suggestive manner. A woman imagines herself wearing a bra and underwear and dancing suggestively in front of a mirror, as another woman watches disapprovingly. We see a vision imagined by a young girl: a shirtless man (a portion of his bare chest is visible) lies on a church pew face-down, and her mother, wearing a bathing suit, lies on top of him and they mimic swimming motions.
 A woman tells another woman that she draws pictures of a man's genitalia; the woman then instructs the other woman to draw a picture of her husband's genitalia, and the two women show one another the line drawings (we see their drawings of male genitalia). A woman looks at the walls of a couple's bedroom and we see multiple drawings and paintings of male and female genitalia. At an art show two teen girls, a young boy and their mother look at a photograph of a partially nude woman (the profile of her bare breast is seen) and a statue of an exaggerated female form; the boy makes a remark about the size of the woman's chest.
 A man stands behind a woman (both are fully clothed), and he thrusts his hips toward the woman as she bends over and makes a sexually suggestive remark; they have a conversation with sexually suggestive language, the man kisses the woman, tickles her and then straddles her as she lies on the ground while their daughter watches. As a teen girl is watching, a teenage boy and a teenage girl flirt, the boy runs his hands up the girl's arm and kisses her passionately until the girl that's watching tells the other girl and the boy that they are "disgusting."
 Two women lie side-by-side in bed, and one woman rests her head on the other's chest; the two women, in a non-sexual and joking manner, grab one another's breasts, making comments about the feeling of their breasts or bras.
 It is implied that two young men show their bare buttocks and genitals through the windows of a bus to a passing car (no nudity is visible) while making sexual suggestions. A woman tells another woman that her dress is too revealing and we see the woman wearing an off-the-shoulder dress. A woman unbuttons her shirt to cool down, revealing a bit of cleavage. A teenage girl pulls multiple pairs of underwear on top of underwear that she is already wearing; she then poses in a mirror, looking at her behind. We see two teenage girls wearing an abdomen-exposing top. A woman jokingly takes a large pair of underwear, which belongs to another woman, and puts the underwear on her arms and chest; the woman who owns the underwear laughs. A girl is seen in a bathtub; no nudity is visible.
 A man flirts with a woman as the woman's young daughters watch; the man touches the woman's waist and calls her "Bathsheba" when she suggests they go swimming at a pool. A woman rubs a man's leg, wrapping her arm around the man's calf.
 Several men listen to a tape of a male doctor describing how to manually stimulate the female genitalia. A woman tells a man that he does not sexually satisfy her, and then explains how she knew he had listened to tapes describing how to sexually satisfy women, but then explains that she sexually gratifies herself. Two women discuss how frequently they have sex. A man makes a sexual joke out of a phrase a woman uses in relation to orgasms. A man tells several other men that another man's marriage had dissolved due to "sexual reasons"; a second man asks the man to elaborate and he does not. A man tells a woman that an author had been a "pervert" who "liked schoolgirls" but does not elaborate. A woman jokingly tells a man that she has a "wedgie" and describes that her underwear is rubbing her behind and genitals.
 A teen boy and a teen girl roll around on top of one another and they kiss passionately as they lie on the ground. A man and a woman hug, and then kiss. A man and a woman look at one another longingly. A woman stares longingly at a man and a woman, as the woman runs her hand down the man's back. A man and a woman kiss. A woman pulls away from a man's kiss when he attempts to kiss her on the lips. Four teenage boys look longingly at three teen girls as they stretch before exercising. Two teen girls and a young boy cheer for a man and a woman (their parents) to kiss; the man and the woman feed one another cake, look at one another and pull away.

VIOLENCE/GORE 5 - A young man drives a bus containing a young woman, three other young men and a toddler off a cliff and into a body of water; the young woman screams as she looks for the toddler that had been placed inside a cooler moments before the bus drove off the road, one of the young men panics and looks in the partially submerged bus for the cooler containing the toddler and appears not to be able to find it (we later see the toddler unharmed).
 A man shouts angrily at his wife, he sits in the backseat of a car, reaches around and chokes the woman sitting in the driver's seat until she gasps for air and pulls away (she is unharmed). A woman shouts at her husband and pushes his face away from her; he grabs the wig off her head and shoves her and she rushes away crying.
 A man shouts angrily at a woman, and she runs away and locks herself in a car. Two teen girls listen as their parents fight unseen, shouting loudly at one another. A man angrily slams his hand on a table.
 A very pregnant woman screams in pain in front of her young daughter and a man; we then see the woman lying in a hospital bed, crying and with an IV attached to her arm and no longer pregnant (we later learn that the woman had miscarried).
 A man tells a group of men and women that a woman's brain tumor was successfully removed, but she will be "different" (we later see the woman in a catatonic, visibly mentally handicapped state). During a phone conversation, a man tells a woman that another woman has suffered from a seizure and it was discovered that she has a large brain tumor. A woman holds her head in pain and tells another woman that she has been getting very bad headaches lately. A woman winces in pain when another woman puts bobby pins in her hair. A woman jokingly shoves another woman.
 Two women shout at no one. A man shouts, directed at no one. A woman screams in surprise when standing in a lake; it is implied that she felt a fish swim past her. A woman jokes to another woman that another woman's speech made her "suicidal." A man jokingly tells a boy doing the splits not to "breaks his legs." A man makes a comment that he will beat up his adult daughter's former boyfriend. A man tells a woman the story of a man dying in a car accident when his car skidded on ice. Throughout the movie, men and women read and quote scripture that involves violent punishments, including that "whips will cut" and "heat will sear the flesh," and a person had sweat blood.
 It is implied that a teenage girl throws up into a toilet; we see her wiping her mouth and looking ill (no sounds of vomiting are heard). A woman coughs, grabs her pregnant stomach and looks ill, while she tells another woman that she "can't keep anything down."

PROFANITY 5 - About 9 F-words and its derivatives, 6 sexual references, 6 scatological terms, 9 anatomical terms, 3 mild obscenities, name-calling (Jesus freaks, hippo, sissies, pervert, creepy, fat, big ole target), 1 religious profanity, 5 religious exclamations. [profanity glossary]

SUBSTANCE USE - A young girl discovers multiple baggies of what is implied to be cocaine and she plays with the powder by putting it on her face and on her dolls and toys, a man shouts at a woman for having cocaine and flushes it down the toilet while accusing her of being a drug user as the woman tells him she does not use drugs, and a young man smokes what is implied to be marijuana from a bong. We see a man drinking beer to the point of intoxication and we see glasses of champagne used to toast at a celebration. On multiple occasions we see a man smoking a cigarette and a young man is seen smoking a cigarette.

DISCUSSION TOPICS - Discovering faith, spirituality, Bathsheba, "born again" Christianity, speaking in tongues, disappointment, edification, divorce, miscarriage, rejection.

MESSAGE - The journey to find a person's faith and spirituality can be a lifelong task.

Special Keywords: S7 - V5 - P5 - MPAAR

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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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