Saturday, May 14, 2011

Steel Magnolias (1989)

Steel Magnolias

Starring: Sally Field, Dolly Parton, Shirley MacLaine, Daryl Hannah, Olympia Dukakis, Julia Roberts, Tom Skerritt, Sam Shepard and Dylan McDermott

Director: Herbert Ross

Writer: Robert Harling (play and screenplay)

Release Date: November 15, 1989

Runtime: 117 minutes

Flick in Five (Sentences or Less): A comedy-drama full of revelations, love, tears and grief following several years in the lives of women who regularly see one another at a beauty shop in their small Louisiana town.

Flick Facts:

* The movie is based on a play written about playwright Robert Harling's sister.

* Meg Ryan was under contract to play the role of Shelby but producers let her out in order for her to play the part of Sally in When Harry Met Sally.

* Winona Ryder, a breakout star by 1988, was offered the role of Shelby before it was given to the then relatively unknown Julia Roberts.  

* Director Herbert Ross thought Daryl Hannah was too attractive to play the part of Annelle and turned her down, but asked her to come in and read anyhow.  She showed up at the studio dressed as Annelle and security refused to allow her in when they didn't recognize her.  She got the part.

* Both Dolly Parton and Darryl Hannah studied hair stylists so their scenes in which they are doing hair would be real and authentic.

Producers believed that the audience would not believe Sally Field as the mother of a 22 year old until she pointed out that in real life, she was the mother of a 22 year old. 

* After a bungled take, director Herbert Ross scolded Dolly Parton and asked her if she could act. The irrepressible Dolly replied "No, but it's your job to make me look like I can!"

* The movie was shot in the small Louisiana town of Natchitoches, with locals being used for background and extra parts.  When The Man in the Moon was filming in Natchitoches in 1991, extras were difficult to find as they had been so strained by the Steel Magnolias crew. 

* Between the film's six female principals, there are twelve Academy Award nominations and five wins.  Only Darryl Hannah and Dolly Parton have not won awards. 

Chick Speak:

* "In a good shoe I wear a size six but a seven feels so good I buy a size eight." 

* "Janice Van Meter got hit with a baseball.  It was fabulous."
         "Was she hurt?"
    "I doubt it.  She got hit in the head."

* "Honey, time marches on and eventually you realize it's marching across your face." 

* "I do not see plays, because I can nap at home for free. And I don't see movies 'cause they're trash, and they got nothin' but naked people in 'em! And I don't read books, 'cause if they're any good, they're gonna make 'em into a miniseries."

*  "Miss Truvy, I promise that my personal tragedy will not interfere with my ability to do good hair." 

"Well, you know what they say: if you don't have anything nice to say about anybody, come sit by me!"

*  "I don't like her. I don't trust anyone who does their own hair. I don't think it's natural. "

* "Ouiser, I'd recognize this penmanship anywhere. You have the handwritin' of a serial killer."

"The only thing that separates us from the animals is our ability to accessorize."

"I'm not crazy, I've just been in a very bad mood 40 years!" 

*  "Oh, Sammy's so confused he don't know whether to scratch his watch or wind his butt." 

"Ouiser's never done a religious thing in her life."
    "Now that is not true.  When I was in school a bunch of my friends and I would dress up as nuns and go bar hopping."

Flick Flove:  Steel Magnolias had the tagline "The Funniest Movie Ever to Make You Cry" and no matter how many times you see it, it holds true. This film is a wonderful mix of witty and moving writing and the uttery phenomenal acting by every principal actor and actress.  Not one miscast, not one poorly directed scene, not one piece of poor writing.  You just can't get much better than that.

Julia Roberts received an Academy Award nomination, well deserved, but in my humble little opinion, she's not even the best part of this film.  Neither is the always strong and dependable Sally Field.  This film boasts a trifecta of fabulous in Shirley MacLaine, Olympia Dukakis and Dolly Parton.  Their inteaction and exchanges are still classic, still humorous, still touching, even more than 20 years after this flick was filmed and released.  They are so endearing it makes me want to tease up my hair, plant a garden of tomatoes, bestow the nickname "Spud" on my husband and drink Coca-Cola from the bottle.

Flick Flack: The height of 80s fashion rears its ugly head here and it's memorialized on film.  Big bows, big shoulder pads, big hair.  Everything is big here, including the personalities.  It doesn't detract from the wonderful down home charm though. 

I personally have never cared much for Daryl Hannah and think she is much overrated as an actress.  Seriously, how hard is it to pretend to be a mermaid with no speaking ability, at first (Splash) or a bimbo piece of arm candy (Wall Street)?  However, as Anelle, Hannah is understated and, surprisingly, it works.

Spawns and Sequels: There has not been a sequel to Steel Magnolias, however the film continues to charm old and new audiences alike through DVD and cable. 

The Final Word: Steel Magnolias was one of the best movies of 1989 and the cast is a veritable "who's who" for that decade (and in the case of Julia Roberts, for the next decades to come). This flick completely and utterly defines a "chick flick" - - it's about relationships, relationships, relationships and the relationship focuses are primarily those between the females, as mothers, daughters, neighbors and friends.  The core cast of females is remniscent of one of my favorite films of all time, 1939's The Women.  Unlike that classic, though, Steel Magnolias does have actors in the cast and they provide solid supporting roles.  The wonderful Sam Shepard makes one of his (sadly) few film appearances.  Don't be fooled though - - the women own  this movie. 

Steel Magnolias is available for purchase at major retailers, including Amazon.  I am an Amazon affiliate. If you make a purchase through my link, I will receive a small commission.

For the trailer from Steel Magnolias:

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