Ballad of Little Jo, The

MPAA Rating: R

Entertainment: +3 1/2

Content: -2

In the late 1880's, there was a world of difference between the East and the Wild West. Just ask Josephine Monoghan (Suzy Amis). Around that time, she is disgraced in the East and goes West, on her own, to live out her life in obscurity. After a terrifying encounter where she is almost raped by some passers-by, Josephine decides that if she is to survive alone, she must do it as a man. She throws her dress away in favor of a pair of dungarees, and cuts her face and hair to make her look "manly." Little Jo now finds her way to Ruby City, a muddy group of mining shacks in the middle of nowhere in Montana. She struggles for acceptance as a claim digger, a livery stable worker, and finally a sheepherder. THE BALLAD OF LITTLE JO is a fascinating account of one woman's true story with many historical details of the Western mining scene. The hard world of the miners and homesteaders, including their fights with the cattle barons, comes breathtakingly alive in this unique western.

The story concerns a woman who, for all purposes, becomes a man. When she becomes involved romantically with a man, it is a little disconcerting to see her kissing him, even though we know she is a woman. This may only be coincidental, but there seems to be some blurring of gender roles that the movie condones. Most of the men in the movie are portrayed as crude, ignorant beasts who cheat on their wives and love to hurt other people. This may accurately describe the majority of rough characters in the West, but the almost complete absence of positive male characters is discouraging. The film features much bloody violence, although it is never overdone. Jo gives herself a scar with a razor and is violently pursued twice in attempted rape. One man is hung up, choking, while another lady is cut on her face and several people are killed by gunfire. Sexual situations are implied twice and breast nudity is shown twice. Jo and her Chinese lover use opium several times. Regular profanity is heard many times, but the s-word only once. Given the violent age it chronicles, THE BALLAD OF BILLY JO is rather realistic, but its violence, language and sexual content become excessive and much too explicit at times.

Preview Reviewer: Greg Wilson
Fine Line Pictures, 888 7th Ave., 20th Floor, NY, NY 10106

The following categories contain objective listings of film content which contribute to the subjective numeric Content ratings posted to the left and on the Home page.

Crude Language: Many (22) times - Mild 12; Moderate 10

Obscene Language: Few (2) times (s-word once, one other)

Profanity: Many (19) times - Regular 10; Exclamatory 9

Violence: Many times - Moderate (woman cuts face, rabbit shown being chopped up, woman almost violently raped twice; one man hung, slowly choking; woman cut on face; 7 people killed with gunfire)

Sex: Implied twice, with breast nudity once

Nudity: Female breast nudity twice

Sexual Dialogue/Gesture: Several times, references to intercourse

Drugs: Alcohol drinking at party; opium use shown twice

Other: Anti-male bias and blurring of gender

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