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|Index||137 reviews in total|
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The 1989 film Steel Magnolias, based on an off-Broadway play by Robert
Harling, centers on six Southern women who aspire to be strong in the good
and bad times. The bride-to-be Shelby (Julia Roberts) and her
mother M'Lynn (Sally Field) are in Truvy's Beauty Spot, which is owned by
Truvy Jones (Dolly Parton). Truvy had just hired an assistant, Annelle
(Daryl Hannah), who was a new comer to the area. Clairee (Olympia Dukakis)
was getting her hair set and Ouiser (Shirley McLaine), being pulled by her
mangy mutt, was the last to arrive. This is a joyous day for the gang when
the diabetic Shelby has an insulin reaction that M'Lynn says was caused
the added stress of the wedding.
After the wedding, the girls go on about their lives. Truvy gets her
husband to open up, Clairee buys a radio station, Annelle finds the Holy
Ghost and a man of her own, and Ouiser rekindles an old flame.
Around the holidays, the girls come back together. Shelby and her new husband Jackson Latcherie (Dylan McDermott) announce that they are expecting a baby early next year. M'Lynn is stunned because based on what the doctor had told Shelby at her pre-wedding physical, she wasn't supposed to have children. Her rare case if diabetes made her condition very delicate. But Shelby knew that she would be fine. Complications with the pregnancy lead to M'Lynn giving Shelby a kidney. (Hey, what are mothers for?) After Shelby's tragic death from her kidney transplant, Clairee, Ouiser, Truvy and Annelle manage to keep M'Lynn smiling after the funeral.
The intention of the Director Herbert Ross was to show the audience the troubles that people have in life and that sticking together, and maybe a little humor can get us through anything. Ross did a great job on this movie. From the female bonding done in the first scene to the death of one of the lead characters, Ross portrayed each character's life as an individual as well as their lives together as friends. I would recommend this movie to anyone who wants a good laugh and a good cry.
I won't review the plot, that has been done many times so far, This movie is a gem!!!! A perfect 10, funny moving and georgeous all at the same time. The score is one of the best I have ever seen in a movie. The composer resisted the temptation to go with regional music and composed a score that was lush, full and totally appropiate. See this movie! By the way I am not a chick :)
Steel Magnolias is about environment more than character or events. That's not to say that there are not achievments in character or big events, (a marriage, a death, etc.) The environment, however, is the movies main feature. This environment is composed of a group of women. Six of them. They hang out at a beauty parlor and talk gossip and seem to really be close. The dialogue is sometimes corny and sometimes funny and some of the events work. The problem with the movie is that nothing too extraordinary happens. The tragic moment is dramatic, but that's it. That's the only thing "new" in this entire movie. I can't help but be reminded of Diner about a group of adult men who hang out at a diner and talk gossip and kid with each other. Now that was a movie. It had brilliant characters, great dialogue, and hilarious situations. Steel Magnolias has the characters and the dialogue, but it is missing the situations. The situations are essentially the story and they are the most important part of a film and so without them Steel Magnolias might have the most realistic characters in the world, but it still feels empty. No story hurts any movie. This one is lucky that it can still be considered alright even though it contains next to no plot. It is alright because of the characters and performances only.
I saw the off-Broadway production of "Steel Magnolias", and let me tell you, other than the title, the two had little in common. Hollywood screwed it up, as usual, with an over-acting cast who are cookie-cutter characters. All of Dukakis' lines were taken from t-shirts designed for gay men; Roberts' accent comes and goes, Skerritt and Sam Shepard are wasted. Only Sally Field, in the graveyard near the end, comes close to producing anything remotely memorable. She does terrific work in a predictable, fuzzy, movie.
Robert Harling's off Broadway play based on the death of his real life
sister had the good fortune of having him do the screen adaption. In
expanding it for the big screen and shooting it in his native
Louisiana, Steel Magnolias lost nothing of what he was trying to convey
in his one set drama which only involved the six women who are the
leads. In fact seeing them interact with other family and friends added
well to Steel Magnolias.
Still the root of the play is the conversations among six friends in Dolly Parton's Beauty Parlor in a small Louisiana bayou town. The friends are friendly enemies Olympia Dukakis and Shirley MacLaine and Sally Field and her daughter Julia Roberts. A new hairdresser is hired by Parton as it turns out on the day that Roberts is to be married and that is Darryl Hannah.
Roberts is a diabetic and she takes some very big health risks when she gets pregnant and has a baby boy. These women despite a lot differences and some occasional cattiness are really tight and the health problems of Roberts unites them all.
Steel Magnolias should have received a bit more recognition from the Academy than the nomination Julia Roberts got for Best Supporting Actress. If Steel Magnolias is nothing else it's an ensemble piece and recognizing Roberts over the others was unfair. For this story to work, all of the six females have to be good and all of them are.
This story has everything, laughter, sadness, great joy, and great pathos. Sometimes the six women are putting out several of these emotions at one time.
The best thing I can say about Steel Magnolias is that it is the kind of film you can watch over and over and be moved by it and maybe pick up an emotion you should have felt before in a particular scene. A rare and extraordinary work can do that and Steel Magnolias is a film for the ages.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I can't praise this movie enough. I've seen it dozens of times, as a
play on Broadway, and as a TV pilot with an excellent cast that sadly
didn't sell. It is probably one of the most quotable films ever made.
The movie was even a major plot device in one of the most popular
episodes of "Designing Women", which is ironic considering that much
later Delta Burke of "DW" appeared in "SM" on Broadway.
This is an ensemble piece of the highest proportions. If you were to ask any person to name a movie where "ensemble" is the keyword, "Steel Magnolias" would probably rank in the top ten. The major character is Julia Roberts' Shelby, but she is really supporting. It is her life that is the glue that holds all of these people together. Shelby gets married, Shelby has a baby, Shelby gets ill, etc. But it is each of the other characters who put the outside pieces together of this beautifully written Southern poem. Mama M'Linn (Sally Field, whose presence indicates the lead) is a mother hen, gentle and loving in every way, but strong and resistant. (In other words, a Steel Magnolia). When tragedy hits her family, it is her friends who come flocking together to help M'Linn deal with it. They are grouchy Ouiser (Shirley MacLaine at her most eccentric), good-hearted Truvy (the wonderful Dolly Parton, whom "Designing Women" focused their hour long episode around), bashful Annelle (an understated Darryl Hannah) and most outrageously, the cheerfully wisecracking Eve Arden of the group, Clairee (Olympia Dukakis). Unlike the play, men are included, and amongst them are Dylan McDermott as Roberts' hubby to be, Tom Skerritt as Fields' rascal husband and Sam Shepard as Parton's distant spouse.
The men are there, but it is the women that the film concentrates on. There are also a few other women around in smaller roles, most notably Ann Wedgeworth as McDermott's aunt and "Porkys" vet Nancy Parsons (Gym teacher Ms. Ballbricker) as the physically wounded Janice Van Meeter, a victim of a collision with a baseball. "Looks like two pigs fightin' under a blanket", Dukakis quips while watching Parsons dance at a wedding reception. (For the record, Parsons was a fine character actress who had only a few opportunities to shine in films; Like the equally stout Shirley Stoler, she could infuse even her nastiest characters with something memorable.)
Everybody has great moments, but it seems that most people particularly remember Dukakis and MacLaine's teaming. Yes, they definitely steal every magnolia scene they are in. They are the Lucy/Ethel, Laverne/Shirley, Cybil/Mary Anne. At times they are also a Paul Lynde/Charles Nelson Reilly combo. (Yes, those two did work together.) For the TV pilot, it was Polly Bergen and Elaine Stritch, two "Follies" girls makin' with the cracks, and in the Broadway production I saw, it was Frances Sternhagen and Marsha Mason. (I must say that I originally thought of the actors cast in the opposite role in that production, but Ms. Sternhagen was a delightful Clairee who knew how to make each moment she was on stage count. It's ironic to see MacLaine supporting a mother in distress after being the mother in distress in 1983's brilliant "Terms of Endearment". After her triumph as Cher's wise mother in "Moonstruck" and a few years before her outstanding portrayal of Anna Madrigal in "Tales of the City", Dukakis scored this film role which became the final nail in the proof that she was indeed the best not-so-newcomer finding success in middle age even though she was already one of the most respected actresses in the theater. Like her "SM" successor Frances Sternhagen, Dukakis is capable of winning laughs and stealing scenes with just a rise of her eyebrow.
Up against that, how can Parton and Hannah hold up? They do just fine, but I think they were probably resigned to the fact that opposite that pair, they'd be all but forgotten. Indeed, they are excellent. They have equally great lines: Parton's line about one relative not knowing whether to scratch their watch or wind their behind is a gem, as is Hannah's delivery of the simple line about not letting her personal tragedy get in the middle of her doing good hair. Field gets the real chance to bite into the acting apple as she continues to hold in her grief through each of her sadness's until like a volcano, she builds up and explodes. She is excellent and missed out on a third Oscar Nomination. Check out her physical reaction when, after emotionally blowing up, she witnesses Dukakis's response to the whole scene. It's so filled with spontaneity and realism, and it is priceless.
That brings me to Julia Roberts, here a novice in a group full of vets. She scores wonderfully and probably is the least showy. That's probably why the Oscars gave her a nod for Supporting Actress. It's understated and simple, yet filled with humanity, strength, and a quiet acceptance of a fate she can't escape. Stage acting can be big, but successful film acting for the most part meshes all of those qualities together to really touch the heart. While I would choose Dukakis for Supporting Actress, I can see why they nominated Roberts and not the rest of the fine cast.
Bill McCutcheon is amusing as MacLaine's old beau who pops up, and Skerritt is funny as M'Linn's scoundrel husband who loves harassing the grouchy Ouiser. But to wrap things up in this long review, I can state that you don't have to be female, Southern, or gay to really get into these women's passionate friendship. The film is sumptuously filmed and features a beautiful musical score that is as touching as the friendship these ladies share. It is obvious that the tales several of these stars have told about making this film (Parton, MacLaine and Dukakis) that they loved working with each other. They should again.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Very well acted drama about five very different Southern women and how
they cope with the events that shape their lives.
Director Herbert Ross really allows the ladies to take over the show, and they all put in strong performances. Sally Field, Shirley Maclaine, Daryl Hannah, Dolly Parton and Olympia Dukakis are all very good, whilst Julia Roberts is excellent. Also stars Tom Skerritt, Sam Shepard, Dylan McDermott and Kevin J. O'Connor.
Humour and drama are well balanced in a film whose tragic ending will surely pull at your heart strings. Engaging and at times very funny, "Steel Magnolias" is an enjoyable film.
Monday, November 29, 1993 - Video
Steel magnolias has it all. Lots of laughs. Lots of pain. Too much pain. First of all the laughs. I would love to have the part played by Tom Skerritt as (Drum). Out side scaring the birds away by firing his pistol and then with his crossbow was really funny. The sparing he does with Shirly (Ouiser) will make you chuckle out-loud. Really great acting by everyone in the cast. So why am I down on this movie? Too much pain. After having watched a really good light comedy I'm suddenly watching Julia (Shelby) fighting for her life for a long time. Too much pain. Then the funeral and grave yard scene that wouldn't end was too much for me. The only part of the grave-yard scene that made me not hurt so much was when Annelle said it should be a celebration as Shelby was going to see her King. Again a great cast great acting but too much ----
As a native of Louisiana, may I clarify some aspects of this wonderful movie? First, there is neither a parish (what we call counties in Louisiana) nor a town in Louisiana named Chinquapin. This is totally fictional. Chinquapin is what we call a red-eared sunfish and is also a type of oak tree. The movie was filmed in Natchitoches, Louisiana, which is in Natchitoches parish. I attended Northwestern State University in Natchitoches. Natchitoches is in the northwestern part of Louisiana where the people speak a southern dialect, not a South Louisiana, or Cajun, dialect. Althougth there are French names in Natchitoches and wonderful Louisiana food, this town where the movie takes place, is not in Cajun Louisiana. Anyone in Natchitoches who speaks with a Cajun accent has moved there from South Louisiana. The movie is very authentic to the lifestyle and people of Natchitoches at the time it was filmed. Please remember that all of Louisiana is NOT Cajun. Only the southern part of the state is the Cajun area and not everyone in Louisiana of French descent is Cajun. If you would like to really understand the true meaning of Cajun, please do an Internet search under "Cajun" or "Acadien."
Expanded version of Robert Harling's play stands up reasonably well.
Yes, it suffers a bit from its obvious direction, its potpourri of
"Louisiana" accents, and its all-star casting. (I think each
performance deserves a comment: 1) Sally Field is basically believable
as the under-appreciated M'Lynn; her flat response to Shelby's 'big
news' is particularly well played. Then again, she almost ruins
everything with her embarrassingly actress-y meltdown at the film's
climax. 2) Julia Roberts's accent might be the worst of the bunch, but
she manages to play Shelby's main character trait, selfishness, in a
way that's surprisingly un-obnoxious. 3) Shirley MacLaine is funny
enough, but it's not really an acting performance, and she barely even
attempts an accent when driving her 'zingers' home. 4) It's
occasionally obvious that acting isn't Dolly Parton's day job, but
other posters are right in saying hers is the most natural (and
likable) performance in the film. 5) Olympia Dukakis, though miscast,
underplays nicely, and 6) it's only Daryl Hannah's Annelle who really
gets lost in the mix--less because of Hannah's performance than because
the director doesn't know what to make of the character.)
But if it's not a perfect movie, it still has a lot going for it. It manages to bring in male characters without diminishing the play's important female focus, and it works hard to keep sentimentality from creeping in, with some success. It takes an admirably straight approach to a wisecrack-packed script that might easily have seemed affected or disingenuous. And most of all it manages to engage its audience, even on repeat viewings. These factors come together into a movie that's going to be worth a watch for most viewers. 8 out of 10.
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