Three southern sisters try to come to grips with the meaning of their mother's suicide.

Director:

Bruce Beresford

Writers:

Beth Henley (screenplay), Beth Henley (play)
Nominated for 3 Oscars. Another 3 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

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

Three sisters with quite different personalities and lives reunite when Babe, the youngest, has just shot her husband. Oldest sister Lenny takes care of their grandfather and is turning into an old maid. Meg, who aspires to make it in Hollywood as a singer and actress, has had a wild, man-filled life. Their reunion is joyful but also stirs up much tension. 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 »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Sissy Spacek (Babe Magrath) & Sam Shepard (Doc Porter) also worked together on Bloodline (2015) as Sally Rayburn & Robert Rayburn respectively. 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.
Lenny Magrath: Oh, well, that's good news.
Lucille Botrelle: None of this is good news, Lenny Magrath! It's all a grueling nightmare and you mark my word those responsible will pay dearly!
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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.
3 May 2001 | by gbrumburghSee all my reviews

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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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

23 January 1987 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Crimes of the Heart See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$20,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$1,402,921, 14 December 1986

Gross USA:

$22,905,522

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$22,905,522
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby

Color:

Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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