2015 TV-MA 2h 15m Blu-ray / DVD


2015 TV-MA 2h 15m Blu-ray / DVD
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Achieving a level of popularity previously unknown to blues musicians, Bessie Smith was not only an imposing performer, she was a major influence on generations of artists to come. This first-rate biopic charts her evolution from singer to star.
Queen Latifah, Michael K. Williams, Khandi Alexander, Mo'Nique, Mike Epps, Tory Kittles, Tika Sumpter, Oliver Platt, Bryan Greenberg, Charles S. Dutton
Dee Rees
Blu-ray DVD
Widescreen 1.85:1
English, Spanish (Neutral), French
English: Dolby Digital 5.1
TV-MA - This program is specifically designed to be viewed by adults and therefore may be unsuitable for children under 17. TV-MA - This program is specifically designed to be viewed by adults and therefore may be unsuitable for children under 17.
age 16+
Common Sense rating OK for kids 16+
age 16+

Common Sense Note

Parents need to know that Bessie, with its tour-de-force performance by Queen Latifah, is for mature audiences only. In telling the story of Bessie Smith, a dazzlingly talented blues singer of the 1920s and 1930s, the filmmakers successfully provide an in-depth portrait of the emotional volatility and the music of an African-American icon. Bessie's story is sometimes violent -- Bessie was never one to back away from a physical fight that might victimize her. It's often sexual, portraying both lesbian and heterosexual intimacy with partial nudity. And the film addresses Bessie's alcohol abuse and the racial politics of the era. Language is adult, with many instances and forms of "f--k," "s--t," and "c--k," as well "bitch," "ass," "hell," and "damn," among others. This award-winning musical drama was originally an HBO special event.

Sexual Content

Sensuality, sexuality, and infidelity are important to the story. Leading character is bisexual. Lesbian and heterosexual sex scenes include: kissing, embracing, foreplay, and, in one instance, exuberant intercourse. Partial nudity, including bare breasts.


Numerous fistfights and scuffles, some prompted by women fending off male predators. A knife attack. Domestic rage and violence. Racist acts: Hooded white men threaten to set fire to a large tent filled with African-Americans; white men with rifles and shotguns shoot wildly at a passing train. Multiple flashbacks reveal a hysterical little girl who is frightened and furious at an unseen, punishing adult.


Frequent obscenities, swearing, and name-calling: "f--k," "hell," "s--t," "c--k," "damn," "ass," "bitch."

Social Behavior

Shows that, despite a traumatic childhood, an early volatile lifestyle, and being a victim of racism, it's possible to achieve success and happiness. Recognizes the importance of loyalty, unconditional love, and unyielding support. Presents a vivid picture of both overt and concealed racism in early 20th-century America.



Drugs / Tobacco / Alcohol

Pervasive drinking and drunkenness. Heroine becomes dependent on alcohol. Smoking throughout, including instances of what appears to be marijuana.

  • Age appropriate
  • Not an issue
  • Depends on your child and your family
  • Parents strongly cautioned
  • Not appropriate for kids of the age

This information for parents is provided by Common Sense Media, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving kids' media lives.

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