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May-Alice Culhane was a successful soap opera star, but a car accident has left her bound to a wheelchair. She returns to her now-empty family home in the bayous of Louisiana which she had eagerly left years before. She drinks heavily and vents her bitterness on the succession of nurses who are hired to take care of her and immediately quit because she is so unbearable. Chantelle is the latest of these nurses, and May-Alice is told that Chantelle is the last nurse she'll get. Chantelle for reasons of her own, is also in a position where she badly needs the job to work out. The movie focuses on how these two women become friends and help each other heal emotionally. Written by
In this current era of moviemaking, it's rare than an idea as soft, as pure as Passion Fish, will be given an opportunity to be made. Thankfully John Sayles has the ability to circumvent the by-committee' filmmaking which would have ultimately turned this wonderful little film into God know's what.
Mary McDonnell will never be better-she is brilliant, than in her portrayal of May-Alice Culhane (for which she was Oscar-nominated), the once-on-top Soap Opera star to whom tragedy has taken the use of her legs, and forced a re-evaluation of her life.
Alfre Woodard, as the hired home-care worker/nurse Chantelle provides the perfect complement as both these women find more of themselves through each other, then they might ever have found otherwise. Again, Ms. Woodard has rarely disappointed.
The early montage of health-care applicants is clever and funny. And John Sayles always is able to find brilliance in his supporting cast: notably Vondie Curtis-Hall, Leo Burmester, and David Strathairn, as well as a small role early in the career of Angela Bassett.
Sayles' script was also nominated for an Academy Award.
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