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Terms of Endearment is amazing comedy-drama and very touching. All the actors did amazing jobs. One question how did this movie get away with a PG rating...it should be PG-13.
This is one of my all-time favorite movies. The casting was excellent, as MacLaine is very believable as the emotionally sterile Aurora Greenway. Winger and Nicholson are superb as well, as this film evokes every emotion known to any human. Some of the best lines in the movie include: "Imagine you going on a date when it isn't necessarily considered a felony" and :Well then, you must be from New York". I have seen the film many times and it still makes me cry from start to finish.
I am not a huge fan of Romantic Comedy as a genre, or of tearjerkers; i tend to avoid both. But Terms of Endearment is much too good to let pass by. The performances of all three principals are terrific, heart-breakingly realistic, and human and super-human all at once. the supporting cast is rock solid (even the little boys), and they all leave their mark on the screen, but I was awed by Jack Nicholson, Shirley MacLaine, and Debra Winger. The story (a chronicle of a mother and a daughter, and their various relationships) is riveting, and although it has numerous opportunities to become trite or maudlin, it maintains a cautious distance from melodrama at all times. it does manage to be, however, intelligent and truly moving, a movie that involves you in it deeply and does not let go.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
.The year 1983 was quite a great year for movies. Many great classics
came out that year. But the two that stood out the most in that year
was the classic Philip Kaufman film called "The Right Stuff" and the
always emotionally charged classic "Terms of Endearment". Even though I
was still a little boy boy at the time this movie was released I had
high hopes that "The Right Stuff" was going to capture the Oscar that
year and I was taken aback by the Academy Awards that "Terms of
Endearment" actually won the coveted prize. I was really appalled by
the judgement and I cursed at the Academy as being biased and only
adulate at certain films and neglect those that really deserved the
Now that I'm an old man at 36 years old, I watched the movie again and I can see exactly why this movie deserved such high-honoured prestige. Something I couldn't decipher in my childhood. After much viewing, in spite of the overdone melodrama and thank mostly to the brilliant script and direction from James L. Brooks, and his gifted cast, "Terms of Endearment" stands on its own as a family oriented drama that rises from what the viewers expect this movie to be as it stretches beyond what its intentions are.
The story extends through decades, following the complex relationship between a mother and her adult daughter. Aurora Greenway (Shirley MacLaine) is an obstinate woman, whose cynical wit and cautious observations are at times too much too handle for her laid-backed daughter Emma Greenway (Debra Winger). Emma takes her liberated views by going off to marry a young man named Flap Horton (Jeff Daniels), much to Aurora's dismay. Aurora think that her marrying Flap is the ultimate liability for her. Sure like in all marriages, they are not without their trials and tribulations, but still Emma continues her loyalty to Flap, due the fact that they have three children together. In Aurora's case she has had her share of men in the past including her infatuation over a former astronaut and neighbour named Garrett Breedlove (Jack Nicholson), who is also at the same a philanderer. And though they have lived contrasting lives, their bondage has remained in sync and before long, their bonding progresses even stronger than it ever has in their lives.
Sure this looks on paper as a depressing, melancholy tear-fest that you would likely see on "The Woman's Channel" or "The Hallmark Channel", but it's really more than just that. It has all the tools to be featured on those channels with issues like tragedy, conflict, and just rooting for the protagonist to win over any obstacles that are getting in their way.
The film itself goes beyond the barriers of the standard mother-daughter fare. Aurora does not always comes across as a very likable character. She's aloof towards anyone she comes across and she's quite self-centred in nature. At a dinner scene, she was flabbergasted when Emma and Flap announced they were having a baby. Instead of pleased to this joyous occasion, she exhibits utter anger that know she's the right age to be a grandmother. But still MacLaine does everything possible to make sure Aurora never falls victim to becoming a one-dimensional crab-cake. Her phone discussions with Emma shows that she deep inside cares about her daughter and truly protects her welfare and her well-being.
In the case of Emma, Winger just can't seem to change her ways around her character as she continually goes against her mother's wishes and at the same time hungers for her mom's acceptance to whatever decisions she wishes to fulfil. Although there felt at time the old vulnerable daughter marrying an unfaithful husband, we end up seeing a very steady woman who has tripped over a few hurdles in her life and because of that, she discovers that she can stand on her own feet. for that reason alone I think Aurora and Emma are both able to defy any cliché within their characters.
Overall this movie still isn't up there with "The Right Stuff", but now after multiple viewing, I can now see why the Oscars selected "Terms of Endearment" the winner for Best Picture. Good call Oscars.
Terms of Endearment (1983)
With three knockout performances and a heart wrenching story, there is enough substance here to get it through a few short improbabilities and clichés. With its sledgehammer ending, all the humor and playful romancing ends up being a set-up for the final act, making it that much more powerful. Director James Brooks shows a feel for real interactions in a very normal sense, and this is his first of only five completed films (another being As Good As It Gets, which has a couple echoes to this one). It isn't a brilliant or original film at all, but it's sincere, and seems to touch on themes of the times (and ours) in a meaningful way.
So who are the three? Well, easily Debra Winger steals the show for warmth and life, and she is, in a way, the one pure spirit throughout. Shirley MacLaine has a more idiosyncratic role, and she pours herself into it with amazing clarity and conviction. And then, in a slightly smaller role but equally important, Jack Nicholson manages his best, charming, audacious, slightly selfish type. The interwoven interactions between these, and a few others, is the core of the film.
The movie is more important for its events than for how it's made, but it's a solid piece in all. And notable, and noticeable, is the editing by the fabulous Richard Marks, for which he won an Oscar nomination.
And life happens, without too much sweetener.
Everyday idea, however deep and thoughtful. Well handled plot -
audience is taken with ease through the portrayal of the script.
Originality is added to the story thanks to the charisma of the actors
Themselves. Well blended vision of the settings. Is best enjoyed when
watched in a calm mood - film may be slow to the more dynamic movie
Emotionally the film will touch most of its viewers. Looking deeper for the films message, one will find that behind the plot lies a hidden "monologue discussion" - reaching in the depths, of the fact, that life is not a rigid harmonious cliché.
Overall a good piece of work.
I am saying that with a sense of humor, because my father (a stoic
person) adamantly would not go to a theater to see any films that
sounded emotional, but because Nicholson was in it, I persuaded him!.
Nicholson really is the foil in this serious and comic drama. It is realistic because nothing is sugar-coated. Think of other films offered up to the public that year. "Mr. Mom"; (disingenuous, and insulting to the audience). "Money Pit". Need I go on?.
A decent film does not insult its audience. A good film makes them think. A masterpiece; well...those are few and far between. This film is almost brilliant, because it depicts tragedy, and the way that the characters must move on (albeit how imperfectly). Jeff Daniels as the philandering son in law; Shirley Maclaine as the dominant yet loving mother; Debra Winger as the struggling and too loving mom, married to a "n'er do well"; but loves her children.
It is a serious theme, hence explaining the need for Nicholson. Granted, at this point in time we have seen him as the cynic way too many times, but at the time of this film his interactions with MacLaine were fresh, comic, and realistic.
The awkward scenes between Debra Winger and John Lithgow engage the audience; two people alienated and trying to connect, having an affair in Nebraska. The scenes where Daniels moves the family to several different towns are classic; the kids are engaging and effective. In fact this is the ONLY film I can think of where a director has humanly portrayed children as complex and interesting, rather than irritating and noisome.
Maclaine is at times overbearing, but understandably so. She is also the matriarch. Danny DeVito is also available for comic relief, as several wealthy widowers pursue Maclaine. This story was written by Larry McMurty ("Lonesome Dove", "Evening Star"). I highly recommend it; if you have a family audience it is a great conversation piece. My Dad and I have two generations between us; and he is the greatest critic, not easily impressed, and he remembers the great films of the 40's. This is the one film which will meet, and exceed your expectations. 9/10.
If you're making a list of the greatest films ever made during the course of the 1980s, you have got to put this on top of your list. This movie deals with all the issues we have to deal with during our lives from affairs to fights to coming to terms, this movie tackles all of those issues in spectacular fashion. Shirley Maclaine gives the performance of a lifetime as Aurora Greenway a high strung mother who does her best to make sure that her daughter played by Debra Winger has the best life she can possibly have while falling in love with a boozed up astronaut played to perfection by Jack Nicholson who deserved the supporting actor Oscar for his performance. When you're talking about a film that deals with family issues, this is number 1. Shirley, Debra, Jack, Danny, John and Jeff, they're all perfect in this movie. James L. Brooks gives us his best piece of work in his movie career, this work of his overshadows his development of the Simpsons, his direction of As good as it gets, and all of his other works. If you want a great movie, go get this movie, it's the best of the best!
**** and more to the engrossing memorable Terms of Endearment.
This comedy-tragedy hits the spot.
The segue showing the change from comedy to drama is done just right.
Shirley MacLaine, finally won the Oscar in 1983, as Aurora Greenway, an overprotective mother who will not allow her grandson to call her grandma.
Debra Winger was also nominated for best actress in this film. Had she been in the supporting category instead, she may very well have won.
As the astronaut flinging for romance, Jack Nicholson garnered the best supporting actor Oscar. His scenes with MacLaine were great, filled with hilarity.
Jeff Daniels is quite appealing as the wayward son-in-law who has to come to the tragic grips of dealing with his wife's cancer.
There was recently a list published here in the UK by one of our
networks detailing the '100 greatest tearjerking moments' of all time.
Unlike in the US, 'tearjerker' is not immediately synonymous with
deliberate sentimentality or a directorial bid to use emotion as a tool
for clouding the critical merit of a film. Instead the word is taken at
face value, and thus films such as ET, Ghost and The Green Mile
comprised the top three 'moments'.
In this sense of the word, Terms of Endearment is the definitive tearjerker. Its emotional crescendos are almost impossibly intense, and while the audience is aware of the obvious conclusion almost a hour before it arrives, this does little to blunt the anxiety and pain of the events. The central mother-daughter relationship, acted brilliantly by Shirley Maclaine and particularly Debra Winger, is the axis for the film's events, spread over a large number of years. Writer and director James L.Brooks draws his characters so skilfully and with such an entrenched emotional subtext that, whether we like it or not, we are inescapably involved with them from the outset, and thus the conclusion as a drama is successful. Winger's rocky marriage to husband Jeff Daniels, mirrored by Jack Nicholson's overt courtship of Maclaine, provides Brooks with the ability to analyse what constitutes a strong romantic relationship, and the spiritual bond two people can attain despite having their differences.
All the performances in the film are outstanding. Winger gives a career best and it is an utter travesty that her mainstream movie 'shelf-life' was prematurely cut short by drug addiction. While Maclaine won the Oscar for her portrayal of Aurora, I agree with other comments on this site that it should have been Winger. Jack Nicholson also won an Oscar and is typically reliable in his role, as are Daniels and John Lithgow (much under-rated as a dramatic actor: all that Third Rock has pigeon-holed him a bit I feel).
The ending simply demands tears, and I will rather boldly assert that if someone claims not to be at least a bit dewey-eyed at the time the credits role, then they simply haven't devoted enough attention to the film. Brooks is one of the best directors still working and his brief yet impressive catalogue leaves me in great anticipation of his future release 'Spanglish'. Please watch this film, you will be richly rewarded if you involve yourself with it enough.
It must come as no surprise that I award this film 10/10.
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