The Prom Parent Guide
On the surface this looks like a single issue film about LGBTQ rights but it's more than that - it's a call for acceptance and compassion for everyone.
Parent Movie Review
Actors Dee Dee (Meryl Streep) and Barry (James Corden) are smarting from scathing reviews for their latest Broadway show. Concerned about the downward trajectory of their careers, they confer with fellow thespians Angie (Nicole Kidman) and Trent (Andrew Rannells). The four decide that the best way to get the publicity they crave is to become “celebrity activists”. They hunt around for a cause, “something we can handle, a little injustice” and find it Indiana.
Hoosier state high school student Emma (Jo Ellen Pellman) wants to go to the prom. With her girlfriend. The PTA is in an uproar; fearing that the state will force them to include LGBTQ students, they cancel prom instead. As the PTA holds a public meeting to discuss the issue, the visitors from New York suddenly erupt into the room and burst into song.
On the surface The Prom looks like a single issue film, a screed against homophobia and those who oppose LGBTQ rights. Don’t get me wrong – the promotion of equal rights for people with diverse sexual orientations is definitely the point of the movie. But the film doesn’t just set up “good gay people” vs “bad homophobic hicks”. The Broadway actors are incredibly flawed: they are selfish and self-serving. Dee Dee baldly states “This is going to get me my third Tony Award. All the goodwill we’re going to get from this thing will wash me clean.”
On the other side, the PTA chair, Mrs. Greene (Kerry Washington) is primarily motivated by fear. She’s afraid that by forcing an integrated prom the state is taking away freedom of choice. She also believes that homosexuality is a choice and is afraid that it makes life more difficult. Her character may be unlikable, but she’s human and not the “monster” Dee Dee calls her.
What saves Mrs. Greene and the Broadway actors is that their characters are given space to learn and grow. The school principal (Keegan-Michael Key) teaches Dee Dee how to become a “good person”. She and her colleagues learn how to put someone else’s needs ahead of their own. And Mrs. Greene re-examines her opinions in the light of her daughter’s revelations. The act of reassessing beliefs also extends to the other students. In one of the most unusual scenes in the film, Trent leads a song and dance number in the local mall, singing about how the Bible delineates sin. His conclusion, which is gradually adopted by the students is “Love thy neighbor trumps them all.”
The Prom is bound to be controversial, lauded by gay-positive viewers and condemned as part of a gay agenda by audiences with traditional views on sexuality. That’s too bad because its overall message of inclusion and acceptance moves beyond LGBTQ rights. In a society that is becoming increasingly locked into sealed silos based on opinions and cultural identity, the idea that we can accept each other for who we are feels increasingly radical…and necessary.
The movie’s message of compassion comes dressed up in campy, neon bright song and dance numbers. It’s splashy and glitzy and goes waaaayyyyy over the top. But it’s also sweet and hopeful. As Principal Hawkins tells Dee Dee when he extolls the power of drama, “A distraction is momentary. An escape helps you heal.” With any luck this frothy musical can help heal some of the rifts in our world.Directed by Ryan Murphy. Starring Nicole Kidman, Meryl Streep, and Keegan-Michael Key. Running time: 130 minutes. Theatrical release December 11, 2020. Updated February 26, 2021
Watch the trailer for The Prom
Rating & Content Info
Why is The Prom rated PG-13? The Prom is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for thematic elements, some suggestive/sexual references and language.
Violence: There is some verbal bullying of a lesbian student. There’s mention of stoning people.
Sexual Content: The movie is about discrimination against LGBTQ youth. Two girls hold hands. A girl sings about looking “hot” and says “Even I would do me.” A woman mentions her ex-husband’s infidelity. Someone sings about a girl having lost her virginity and about masturbation. A man and woman kiss. Two teen girls kiss.
Profanity: There are over 20 terms of deity and a smattering of moderate and mild profanities and anatomical phrases.
Alcohol / Drug Use: People drink champagne in a celebration at a restaurant; they dance around with the bottle and glasses. Main characters get drunk. A song lyric refers to holding Xanax. People take a unnamed pill for morning sickness and “everything else”. A main character says she needs a drink. A main character drinks liquor from the bottle. Adults drink spiked lemonade. An adult mentions day drinking.
Page last updated February 26, 2021
The Prom Parents' Guide
Discrimination at prom is not fictional. Students have faced discrimination based on race as well as sexual identity or orientation.
Dosomething.org: Prom Discrimination: Student Stories from all 50 States
Salon.com: How lesbians “ruined” prom
The most recent home video release of The Prom movie is December 11, 2020. Here are some details…
Related home video titles:
Proms have served as fodder for other films. In Prom, the head of the prom committee is trying t plan the perfect event, until the shed holding the decorations burns to the ground. Prom Night is a horror film that sees a serial killer stalking the partygoers.