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1 item from 1991

'Fried Green Tomatoes'

20 December 1991 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

An anecdotal film that settles for being gently sad, sweet and uplifting, ''Fried Green Tomatoes'' plants tantalizing hints around its periphery of subjects amd relationships that are intriguing and touchy. However, it backs off those potential controversies and relies on its talented female cast to save it from the generic routine of blighted Southern blossoms.

They do so often enough that this saga of Alabama womanhood could turn into a satisfactory performer with longlasting boxoffice wind.

The action unfolds as a series of flashbacks narrated to overweight and emotionally cowed housewife Evelyn Couch (Kathy Bates) by Ninny Threadgoode (Jessica Tandy), an elderly stranger Evelyn accidently meets on a family visit to a nursing home. The lonely Ninny, who insists she's at the home just to look after a friend, immediately sizes up the unhappy Evelyn, and begins telling her tales of her youth in the local countryside back in the '20s and '30s.

These stories focus on the friendship between Idgie Threadgoode Mary Stuart Masterson), a devoted tomboy, and Ruth Jamison (Mary-Louise Parker), a classic good girl who is initially presented to Idgie as an example of proper femininity. However, no sooner do they meet than it is Idgie who is transforming Ruth, first bringing out her new friend's assertiveness and eventually rescuing her from an unhappy marriage and going partners with her on a trainstop restaurant, the Whistlestop Cafe (which is where the fried green tomatoes come in).

As Ninny relates these vignettes of independent womanhood, Evelyn is slowly inspired to take more control of her own life. The shy housewife wends her way through a series of trendy self-actualization fads that perturb her corpulent husband Ed (Gailard Sartain) and provide the film with broad comedy, until, by film's end, she is ready to confront life on her own terms.

The Idgie-Ruth portions are both more emotional and much darker, with accidental deaths, domestic violence, retaliatory murder and the like adorning a story of romantic friendship. Just how romantic is not clear, since the relationship between the mannishly dressed Idgie and the excessively feminine Ruth suddenly veers away from a sexual component it seems to be heading for early on.

Director Jon Avnet, who has lingered on an affectionate kiss or a clasped hand, becomes more and more perfunctory with the scenes between the two, waiting until the very end to reveal the two have separate sleeping quarters.

The film's strengths are mostly in its screenplay (by director Avnet and Fannie Flagg, who wrote the source novel) and performances, particularly from Tandy, who provides the film's moral center with soothing effervescence.

Cicely Tyson, as a family employee in the Idgie-Ruth sections, is briefly memorable but shunted to the foreground only when dramatically required, a treatment symptomatic of the film's uncertain handling of its supporting chracters; Big George (Stan Shaw), another important black character, as well as Grady Kilgore (Gary Basarba), a local lout who undergoes a major transformation into a nice-guy sheriff, are relegated to mere plot utility, despite their putative importance.

Cinematographer Geoffrey Simpson has lent the film a nice burnished quality, although someone has decided to make Masterson look like a figure in a shampoo ad every time she comes into range, her golden locks and fresh-scrubbed looks making for a peculiarly well turned-out scamp.



Director Jon Avnet

Producers Jon Avnet, Jordan Kerner

Screenplay Fannie Flagg, Jon Avnet

Based on the novel ''Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe'' by Fannie Flagg

Director of photography Geoffrey Simpson, A.C.S.

Production designer Barbara Ling

Editor Debra Neil

Music Thomas Newman

Casting David Rubin, C.S.A.



Evelyn Couch Kathy Bates

Idgie Threadgoode Mary Stuart Masterson

Ruth Jamison Mary-Louise Parker

Ninny Threadgoode Jessica Tandy

Sipsey Cicely Tyson

Big George Stan Shaw

Ed Couch Gailard Sartain

Running time -- 130 minutes

MPAA Rating: PG-13

(c) The Hollywood Reporter


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1 item from 1991

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