10 December 2010

Steel Magnolias (starring Dolly Parton, Sally Field, Julia Roberts, Shirley MacLaine, Daryl Hannah and Olympia Dukakis)

From time to time I put a DVD on my wishlist due to the recommendation of friends, only to find Amazon recommending several more that I have not heard of, in similar genre or featuring one of the same actors or actresses. 'Steel Magnolias' was one of them. A quick browse of the blurb and reviews persuaded me that it would be my kind of film.

This story is about six rather different women in the US South, who live in the same neighbourhood and who regularly see each other at the beauty parlour. The parlour owner, with the unlikely name of Truvy, is very well played by Dolly Parton. Indeed, one of the quirks of this movie is that all the main women have slightly odd names, the least unusual being Shelby (played by Julia Roberts).

As the story starts, Shelby is preparing to be married, with her household in an uproar. She and her mother, naturally enough, find themselves at the beauty parlour discussing it, and it’s not long before we learn that Shelby is diabetic.

The blurb on the back of the DVD case says that this is the ‘funniest movie ever to make you cry’. I consider that to be serious hyperbole there since I neither laughed nor cried while watching it. Still, it is undoubtedly moving in places, and the characters (once I had got used to the strong accents and the bizarre scenario of a beauty parlour) really very likeable. There were a few amusing moments, too.

I was less impressed by a tragedy which I should probably have foreseen, but which I didn’t quite believe would happen in the context of a fairly light mildly humorous film. Still, it works well and was overall an engaging movie. The interactions between the women are mostly believable, and the story surprisingly thought-provoking for something that was really a 'chick-flick'. I felt quite involved with the story and the people, and was sorry when it ended.

Recommended. Rated PG in both the UK and USA. Nothing really unsuitable for young children, unless you are very strict, but I doubt if it would be of interest to anyone younger than about eleven or twelve.

Review copyright Sue's DVD Reviews

05 December 2010

On Golden Pond (starring Katharine Hepburn and Henry Fonda)

For some reason, we had never seen 'On Golden Pond' despite it being something of a classic. Indeed, we vaguely thought it had probably been made in the 1950s, and were most surprised to find that it was produced as recently as 1981.

The film features Norman (Henry Fonda) and Ethel (Katharine Hepburn) as an elderly couple who spend their summers on Golden Pond. Norman is a crusty old guy with a terrific low-key sense of humour, and Ethel is his wife of many years: sometimes long-suffering, sometimes deeply loving.

Their daughter Chelsea (Jane Fonda - Henry Fonda's daughter in real life) has been estranged from her parents for quite some time. But this summer, at last, she comes to visit them with her fiancé Bill, and his thirteen-year-old son Billy. Chelsea and Norman have never managed to communicate that they really do care deeply for each other and Ethel is caught between them on many occasions.

Poor Billy is rebellious - wanting his father's attention, not wanting to be dragged along with a potential stepmother, and totally hating the thought of living with people old enough to be his grandparents. Even worse, Chelsea and Bill take a break without him, leaving Norman to make tentative overtures of friendship.

There's not a huge amount of action in this film; it covers just one summer that passes slowly with fishing trips, and loons calling on the lake. It is, however, extremely moving at times. It explores the depth of relationships in an elderly couple, and also manages to examine some of the problems of dysfunctional families. Perhaps most moving of all was the special friendship that developed between an angry teenager and a grumpy grandfather figure.

Totally delightful. Rated PG in both the UK and USA, probably due to mild instances of bad language, but I would consider it suitable for anyone who likes a gentle, relationship-based story that is beautifully made.

Highly recommended.

Review copyright Sue's DVD Reviews