Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Steel Magnolias

1989, US, directed by Herbert Ross

Another 80's opus from Herbert Ross - this much more successful than Footloose, mining territory not a million miles from the 80's Kleenex epic Terms of Endearment. As a portrait of Southern charm, it probably bears only a vague resemblance to the truth, but as a showcase for a fine collection of actresses, too many of whom appear only rarely on screen these days, it's a lovably shaggy dog affair. It's the story of the loves and losses of a group of strong, but disparate, Dixie women, whose mutual support network carries them through their various familial trials, with pithy one-liners usually directed at the men in their lives. There are long scenes in the beauty parlor and well-honed speeches that betray the film's stage origins, but that's rarely a handicap: the action moves along smartly, and you're too busy watching the different actresses at work to notice the occasional mechanical creaks. Julia Roberts was on the verge of superstardom here, and she's already adept at eating up the screen. She's in the company of some real scene-stealers in the form of Dolly Parton and Shirley MacLaine, while Sally Field has a fabulous scene late in the film that's a classic weepie moment - a compliment, not a barb. Best seen with a mint julep or a bowl of ice-cream, or perhaps both.

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States