Common Sense Note
Parents need to know that Contest tackles the issue of bullying as it plays out between a high school athletic star and the downtrodden victim of his persistent physical and emotional abuse. The story follows the two as they're forced into a cooperative relationship that winds up having a positive effect on how each one views the other. Most of the incidents involve teens roughing up classmates in school halls or pressuring them into acting out against their own peers, but a few darker scenes show a non-swimmer thrown into a pool and another bloodied after a violent beat-down. The now-familiar mantra "speak up" is explored with varying degrees of success, with the teens' school's response - forcing the bully and his victim to join forces on an unsupervised project - being the most surprisingly ill-advised. Expect occasional language ("hell," mostly), brief physical contact between teens, and an exaggerated depiction of the social barriers in high school. Ultimately, though, the movie extols tolerance, compassion, and understanding as the greatest weapons against bullying.
Teens flirt, and, in one scene, a guy cozies up to a girl to distract her and cause her to lose a contest, but most of the physical contact is limited to closeness and some quick kissing. In another, a basket of cylindrical food (salami, pepperoni, cucumbers) are implied to be phallic.
Incidents of bullying run the gamut; teens shove victims into walls, slap, punch, kick, and, in one case, toss a non-swimmer into a pool. One exchange is particularly violent, leaving the teen bloodied and bruised. Others actions - like stealing a classmate's lunch - cause less physical harm but are equally damaging emotionally. Tommy calls cyberbullying "online humiliation."
Rarely "hell," plus some name-calling like "loser."
The movie goes to lengths to analyze the issue of bullying from many perspectives, including those of the victim, the instigator, and bystanders. Throughout the story, their feelings aren't always definitive, which reflects the reality of this complicated issue. Sometimes the bully feels guilty, and sometimes taking out his aggressions on others makes him feel empowered. Similarly, the victim struggles with his conflicting emotions as he develops a tentative relationship with his former adversary. All that is resolved by the story's end, though, and every character has learned compromise, trust, self-respect, and compassion.
Drugs / Tobacco /