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1 item from 1996

Film review: 'The Evening Star'

17 December 1996 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

It's akin to going to a family reunion and seeing people you haven't had contact with in 15 years and then filling in all the new boyfriends, kids and others. That's the feeling of "The Evening Star", the second coming of Aurora Greenway, whose life and tribulations captivated us in "Terms of Endearment".

With Shirley MacLaine reprising her Oscar-winning role to prickly perfection, this follow-up film will surely tug at the hearts of Aurora followers, but its episodic nature is not as likely to enthrall audiences as its heart-tugging predecessor. Unquestionably, this "Star" will shine brightest among an older, female audience who will savor Aurora's life adventures, but lacking the big emotional burst of the former, this soap-operatic sequel is not likely to negotiate "Term"'s popularity. More discerning viewers will be downright rankled by its strident tendencies toward emotional melodramatics.

Unlike the daily soaps, you can't pick this one up quite lickety-split. It takes awhile to learn the players. As you already know, Aurora's daughter (Debra Winger) has passed on with cancer, and what you perhaps didn't realize is that Aurora has raised her grandchildren, with decidedly mixed results.

"Terms of Endearment"'s mother-daughter rivalry is now a grandmother-granddaughter tug of war as Aurora struggles to keep her feisty granddaughter, Melanie (Juliette Lewis) from "doing everything wrong in life."

Then there are her grandsons: Teddy (Mackenzie Astin) who's not ambitious enough for Aurora, and Tommy (George Newbern) who, break her heart, is doing time in the penitentiary. Even Aurora's imperturbable front cannot mask the deep disappointment she feels in how her grandkids turned out.

Even worse, they resent her for it, especially Melanie, who has a much tighter bond with her mother's old chum, Patsy (Miranda Richardson) who, as a blond nouveau rich socialite, is everything that Aurora despises and is, as she readily admits, her worst nightmare.

Force of nature that she is, Aurora leaves everything in her wake: bad blood, broken hearts, big grudges, but, best of all, undying love. While some of the story's plot permutations fry a bit fast and are served somewhat slick-side up, screenwriter-director Robert Harling has done an overall solid job of cinematically shaping Larry McMurtry's massive, rambling novel.

Despite some crammed dramatics, "The Evening Star" radiates with many rich emotional moments. And, most of them, fittingly, are the result of Shirley MacLaine's splendid performance as the indomitable Aurora. She's the force to which all others react and, indeed, the drive of MacLaine's performance and personality has undoubtedly kindled the supporting players to their fullest dimension.

Supporting standouts include Lewis as Aurora's brittle and confused but resilient granddaughter; and Richardson who as the still-blond Texas socialite Patsy, is, indeed, a thorny yellow rose. A tip of the brim also to the late Ben Johnson for his solid-rock performance as Aurora's physician neighbor and to Donald Moffat for his spit-and-polish panache as Aurora's old-military ex-beau. Tooling into town for a quickie NASA reunion, Jack Nicholson briefly flashes the devilish grin that continues to defy all of Aurora's better sense and good judgment.

The outstanding technical contributions certainly put the eyes of Texas upon you: Bruno Rubeo's production design sharply delineates the contradictions between down-home Texas and modern-day Houston, similarly, Renee Ehrlich Kalfus' costume design captures the ground-level garishness of Texas garb. A particular highlight is Aurora's costumery, frilly and light-colored as befits a woman whose star will never quietly fade into the night.


Paramount Pictures

Rysher Entertainment

A David Kirkpatrick production

Producers David Kirkpatrick, Polly Platt,

Keith Samples

Screenwriter-director Robert Harling

Based on the novel by Larry McMurtry

Director of photography Don Burgess

Production designer Bruno Rubeo

Editors Priscilla Nedd-Friendly, David Moritz

Costume designer Renee Ehrlich Kalfus

Music William Ross

Co-producer Dennis Bishop

Casting Jennifer Shull

Sound mixer Douglas Axtell



Aurora Greenway Shirley MacLaine

Jerry Bruckner Bill Paxton

Melanie Horton Juliette Lewis

Patsy Carpenter Miranda Richardson

Arthur Cotton Ben Johnson

Bruce Scott Wolf

Tommy Horton George Newbern

Rosie Dunlop Marion Ross

Teddy Horton Mackenzie Astin

Hector Scott Donald Moffat

Jane China Kantner

Garrett Breedlove Jack Nicholson

Running time -- 127 minutes

MPAA rating: PG-13


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1 item from 1996

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