Vicenarian Richard travels to Thailand and finds himself in possession of a strange map. Rumours state that it leads to a solitary beach paradise, a tropical bliss. Excited and intrigued, he sets out to find it.
Estranged since their father's first stroke some 17 years earlier, Lee and Bessie lead separate lives in separate states. Lee's son, Hank, finds himself committed to a mental institution after setting fire to his mother's house. His younger brother, Charlie, seems unfazed by his brother's eccentricities or his mother's seeming disinterest. When Lee comes to the asylum to spring Hank for a week in Florida so that he can be tested as a possible bone marrow donor for Bessie, Hank is incredulous. "I didn't even know you had a sister," he says. "Remember, every Christmas, when I used to say 'Well, looks like Aunt Bessie didn't send us a card again this year?'" "Oh yeah," Hank says. Meanwhile, Marvin, the two women's bedridden father, has "been dying for the past twenty years." "He's doing it real slow so I don't miss anything," Bessie tells Dr. Wally. In Bessie's regular doctor's absence, it has fallen to Dr. Wally to inform Bessie that she has leukemia and will die without a bone marrow ... Written by
Mark Fleetwood <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Bessie's left hand jumps from next to Marvin to his chest as she smacks the bed with her right hand. See more »
Uh, Janine, I wonder if you could tell me how long I might have to wait, because I left Aunt Ruth at home in charge of dad, and...
You'll have to see Doctor Wally, because Doctor Serrot is on vacation.
[finishes typing "I quit" letter]
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The producers wish to thank ... the staff and guests of Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom, Orlando Florida, ... the residents and staff of The Florida Manor Nursing Home ... See more »
This film took this jaded, tough-to-manipulate moviegoer and reduced him to a blubbering mass of water. Instead of the usual over-the-top death scene, the film finds a clever, non-contrived way to end by leaving these characters at a magical moment of mutual understanding. It is one of the most powerful endings I've ever seen in a film, and believe me, I've seen thousands. What I found most remarkable about it was how the film reveals--despite the sisters' major character differences--how similar they really are. Both abandon one part of their family to sacrifice for another part--they each merely take different parts, and that's why Lee's character is not as bad, selfish or one-dimensional as she first seems. Lee's problem was understanding love. Despite all her lovers, Lee (Streep) had to learn the real meaning of love from her spinster sister Bessie (Keaton).
The film is full of irony. One such moment is when Lee, rather tactlessly, says to Bessie that she finally feels as though her life has begun. To which Bessie, who is surely about to die, can only sigh. The greatest irony, of course, is that Lee finds herself at the same juncture she was 20 years prior. Will she choose to sacrifice to care for her sister, just as her sister had chosen to do with her father and aunt? Bessie, in contrast, had come to find that she hadn't "thrown it all away" to care for sick relatives. What first seemed a sacrifice had become transformed, through her own experience, into another valid way of experiencing life. To Lee's perspective, the elders where millstones, hindrances, inconveniences robbed of their humanity--almost the antithesis of life. Yet, behind the eccentricities of Aunt Ruth (Verdon) and other-worldly silence of her chronically ill father Marvin (Cronyn), she had found, and reveled in, their uniquness, their humanness. Making Lee's two sons very different also added complexity and depth to the film. It's obvious that Hank (DiCaprio) is his mother's son, it's just that his mother doesn't realize it. Hank too is at a crucial moment of choice: Will he abandon his selfishness, or will he abandon his familial and moral obligation to help Bessie? And what accounts for the polar opposite behavior of the younger son Charlie (Scardino)? The movie doesn't give an answer. Genetics, environment, relationships and all the other things that make us who we are are complex things. The scriptwriter is smart enough to realize that. Touches of humor keep this from becoming an oppressive Bergmanesque angst-fest, and its patient character development steers it out of obvious soapy (ie. "Terms of Endearment") territory. Although the thing has a sort of TV-movie aesthetic in the staging and the scoring, the writing and acting are everything you'd want. Beautiful.
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