While preparing to go on different summer holidays, four teenage friends go shopping together. Despite their different shapes and sizes, Tibby (Amber Tamblyn), Lena (Alexis Bledel), Carmen (America Ferrera) and Bridget (Blake Lively) manage to find a ‘magical’ pair of jeans that fits them all perfectly. After buying them, they decide to form the ‘Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants’. The jeans will be sent to each girl a week at a time, uniting them whether ‘together or apart’ and bringing good fortune to the wearer.
Lena, artistic and diffident, travels to stay with her grandparents in Greece. She meets and falls in love with Costas (Michael Rady). The relationship allows her to gain a sense of self and confidence. But a longstanding feud between their families, and Costas’ impending departure back to Athens, threatens to break them apart.
Tibby, a rebel and cynic, takes an unsatisfying job at a supermarket to earn money to support her burgeoning film-making career. She meets 12-year-old Bailey (Jenna Boyd), who becomes Tibby’s assistant in the making of a documentary about the town’s locals. Tibby discovers that Bailey has leukaemia, which has a huge impact on her life.
Bridget, confident and athletic, travels to Mexico for a summer soccer clinic. She notices a young soccer coach, Eric, and pursues him, even though this is forbidden. Bridget’s mother has died and her distant relationship with her father leaves her longing for closeness with others. Her emotional needs lead to her first sexual experience, which confuses her further and makes her long for her mother.
Carmen, who is half Puerto Rican, looks forward to spending some one-to-one time with her father over the holidays. Her expectations are dashed when her father (Bradley Whitford) suddenly tells her that he is now living with his fiancée (Nancy Travis) and her two teenage children. Though welcomed warmly, Carmen feels increasingly out of place and that her father has ‘traded her in for something better’. After a disastrous expedition for wedding outfits, Carmen runs away and returns to her mother’s home. She feels unable to attend the rapidly approaching wedding.
The girls have a mix of good and bad fortune when the ‘travelling pants’ come into their possession. Ultimately ‘the pants held them together when nothing else would’.
Loss of and estrangement from family; illness
There is only one violent scene. Carmen, having run away, returns to her father’s home one evening. She sees through a window that her father and soon-to-be stepfamily are sitting down to dinner, instead of searching for her. She gets angry and throws a rock at the dining room window.
Content that may disturb children
Although there are no overtly scary scenes, there are many themes that could disturb very young children, as all of the main characters have some experience with loss:
- Costas tells Lena that both his parents were killed.
- Tibby finds Bailey unconscious in the supermarket and then discovers that she has leukaemia. Later scenes in the movie show Bailey, pale and weak, attached to a drip in hospital. And Bailey and Tibby talk about the fear of dying. We learn indirectly that Bailey dies that night and Tibby is very saddened by this.
- Carmen feels very upset that she no longer fits into her father’s life and runs away. When she calls him later to say how she feels, she is very distressed.
- Bridget struggles to cope with her mother’s death. Although never directly mentioned, it is apparent that her mother had depression and that her death might have been related to this. Bridget experiences a heightened sense of loss and confusion after her first sexual experience and is very upset as a result.
- Another scene shows Lena nearly drowning after falling off a pier and getting her jeans caught on wire. Although she is rescued, this scene could be scary for young viewers.
The scenes listed above could also disturb some children in this age group.
There are no scenes in this movie that would be scary for older children. But the movie does raise some very interesting issues that older teenagers might benefit from discussing.
There are a couple of discreet sexual references in this movie:
- Lena tells the girls (specifically Bridget) that the ‘travelling pants’ can only be removed by the person wearing the pants. Bridget pretends to be insulted by this comment.
- Eric joins Bridget by the beach one night and they are shown to kiss. Bridget returns to her bed later. The next morning she writes to Lena, referring to ‘her first time’ and explaining that it wasn’t what she was hoping for.
Alcohol, drugs and other substances
- One of the older women at Tibby’s workplace is shown smoking during a break. None of the younger characters smoke.
- The father of Carmen’s new ‘stepsiblings’ is reported to be an alcoholic in rehab, but he does not appear as a character.
- Bridget and some of her soccer friends go to a bar (cantina), but none of the characters are shown to consume alcohol.
Nudity and sexual activity
There is no explicit nudity or sexual activity, but there is some implied:
- When trying on the ‘traveling’ jeans, both Bridget and Carmen are shown in their underwear. In a later scene, Lena strips down to her underwear before diving into the sea.
- While in the Greek Isles, Lena observes a few young men applying suntan lotion onto the back of some topless girls.
Bridget lets her hair down and pours water over herself in an attempt to catch Eric’s attention.
- Bridget experiences her ‘first time’ with Eric.
This movie contains occasional mild coarse language and name-calling.
Ideas to discuss with your children
Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants, based on the best-selling novel of Ann Brashares, is a coming-of-age movie that follows the summer holiday stories of four teenage friends. The device of telling the four girls’ differing experiences allows the exploration of many important themes for this age group, all of which are handled in a sensitive and subtle way. The four main actors and the younger supporting cast are engaging, and adults will appreciate the quality of their acting. The settings for the storylines are well drawn. In particular, the backdrop to the scenes in the Greek Iles is spectacular. For the target audience of young girls and teenagers, the attractive lead characters and themes of friendship and growing up will be appealing.
The movie’s main message is about the importance of enduring friendships and loyalty when everything all around is changing. There are also messages about self-respect, accepting yourself for who you are, seizing life’s opportunities, and looking for the best in everything and everyone. You might wish to talk about these qualities as well as your family values on:
- being a team player
- recklessness, lying and disobedience to parents and grandparents
- breaking the rules
- using violence when angry.