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Crimes of the Heart (1986)

 -  Comedy | Drama  -  12 December 1986 (USA)
6.4
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Ratings: 6.4/10 from 2,389 users  
Reviews: 25 user | 11 critic

Three sisters with quite different personalities and lives reunite when the youngest of them, Babe, has just shot her husband. The oldest sister, Lenny, takes care of their grandfather and ... See full summary »

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Title: Crimes of the Heart (1986)

Crimes of the Heart (1986) on IMDb 6.4/10

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Nominated for 3 Oscars. Another 3 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
Lenny Magrath
...
...
Babe Magrath
...
Doc Porter
...
Chick Boyle
...
Barnette Lloyd
Hurd Hatfield ...
Old Granddaddy
Beeson Carroll ...
Zackery Botrelle
Jean Willard ...
Lucille Botrelle
Tom Mason ...
Uncle Watson
Gregory Eugene Travis ...
Willie Jay (as Gregory Travis)
...
Annie May Jenkins
Eleanor Eagle ...
Little Lenny
Jessica Ezzell ...
Little Meg
Natalie Anderson ...
Little Babe
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Storyline

Three sisters with quite different personalities and lives reunite when the youngest of them, Babe, has just shot her husband. The oldest sister, Lenny, takes care of their grandfather and is turning into an old maid, while Meg, who tries to make it in Hollywood as a singer/actress, has had a wild life filled with many men. Their reunion causes much joy, but also many tensions. Written by Leon Wolters <wolters@strw.LeidenUniv.nl>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Meg just left one. Lenny never had one. Babe just shot one. The MaGrath sisters sure have a way with men!

Genres:

Comedy | Drama

Certificate:

PG-13 | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

12 December 1986 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Crimes of the Heart  »

Box Office

Gross:

$22,905,500 (USA)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Color:

(Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The original Broadway production of "Crimes of the Heart" opened at the John Golden Theater in New York on 2/4/1981, ran for 535 performances and was nominated for the 1982 Tony Award for the Best Play. Beth Henley wrote the original stage play and the screen play on which this movie was based. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Lucille Botrelle: The damage to the spinal column's not yet been determined. But his breathing's stabilized and his liver's been saved.
Lennora Josephine 'Lenny' Magrath: Oh, well, that's good news.
Lucille Botrelle: None of this is good news Lennie Magrath! It's all a grueling nightmare and you mark my word those resposible will pay dearly!
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Serial Mom (1994) See more »

Soundtracks

Sunday in the South
Performed and Written by Jay Booker
Published by Screen Gems-EMI Music, Inc.
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User Reviews

Playwright Beth Henley serves up her own southern-baked black comedy, which simmers instead of boils.

Mississippi-born Beth Henley adapted her Pulitzer-prize winning play to the screen and, for that reason alone, is worth a look-see especially if you haven't seen the theatre production. Directed here by Bruce Beresford, this is quintessential Henley -- her first work to be produced professionally -- offering the story of the three quirky, maladjusted Magrath sisters, who reunite following family misfortune to reflect on their unstable past, present and futures.

Lenny, the eldest sister, is the repressed 'plain Jane' self-imposed into early spinsterhood because of her barren condition. Considering herself damaged goods, she now conducts her life as such, tending to her garden and other non-romantic pursuits. Meg, in the middle, is the listless live wire, the capricious, hard-living beauty who fled the coop early to pursue an aimless career in Hollywood as a singer. The prodigal daughter finally returns, rather reluctantly, when serious trouble brews back home. Babe, the youngest and most susceptible to eccentric behavior, seems to take after their dead, self-destructive mother (a suicide) as she battles with manic depression and resorts to off-the-wall bits of craziness. In jail at the present for critically shooting her husband (she "didn't like his looks"), her bizarre action prompts this filial reunion.

As served up by a triune of powerhouse, Oscar-winning ladies, the star performances should have really cooked. Instead they seems unoriginal and pat. Diane Keaton and Jessica Lange are overtly mannered as the two older sisters Lenny and Meg. Keaton especially, easily the "Sandy Dennis of the 70s and 80s", has her neurotic fireworks on full display. The snorting laughter, the flailing gestures, the quizzical eye-rolling, the stammering speeches. What seemed delightfully offbeat in Woody Allen comedies has become old hat and irksome as the years roll on. Lange, too, has her patented affectations on all four burners. The far-away gaze, the slow, reflective speech patterns, the whimsical, lackadaisical laugh and edgy stance. Both of the actresses have represented themselves much better in other vehicles. Ironically, Sissy Spacek, whose character lends itself to be the most neurotic of the three, comes off more inspired and assured -- a complete departure, by the way, from her typical "Coal Miner's Daughter" money-maker. Good for her.

In support, rangy actor/writer Sam Shepard, Lange's long-time off-camera squeeze, has little to do here but look longingly as Lange's on-camera squeeze. But Tess Harper goes way overboard as the overly-opiniated Chick, the snippy, mullet-haired cousin and next-door neighbor, who stereotypes the vicious down-home chatterbox to the nth degree. While her villainy (which kept jogging my memory of wonderful Madeleine Sherwood's Sister Woman portrayal in "Cat On a Hot Tin Roof") certainly enlivens the action as chief foil to the sisters, they tear down the walls of believability as well.

Despite some well-acted moments from this unarguably talented cast, the overbaked production cannot overcome its stagy origins, striving much too much to push the "black comedy" element down the viewer's throat. One wacky scene has Diane Keaton chasing Tess Harper out of her house and around the backyard with a broom, a bit that comes off just plain ridiculous even though it's meant to be a catalyst for liberating Keaton's Lenny character. I'm sorry, but broom-chasing went out with Marjorie Main's "Ma Kettle" character years ago. This and other eccentric scenes simply come off forced, as if the actors are playing the intention instead of the moment. Lange and Shepard's giddy dancing drunk scene, Spacek's over-sugared lemonade bit, and even Keaton's impromptu birthday cake segment are guilty of this felonious acting charge.

While definitely Tennessee Williams-influenced, the rather thin Henley story and characters pale in comparison. Working much better on stage, this movie remains, however, a curiosity item that somehow ended up on simmer instead of boil, despite the obvious potential.


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