Steel Magnolias

In this bittersweet drama, a close-knit group of women congregates at a beauty parlour in a small Louisiana town to laugh, cry and discuss life events.

Year: 1989
Certificate: PG
Runtime: 1hr 58m
Director: Herbert Ross
Starring: Sally FieldDolly PartonShirley MacLaineDaryl HannahOlympia DukakisJulia RobertsTom SkerrittSam ShepardDylan McDermottJanine Turner

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“Steel Magnolias” is an ensemble movie, which takes place over a number of years in small chunks mainly set around the main holidays of the year. This is a very clever way to show that time has moved on and by how long, Easter to Christmas, to Fourth of July etc.

The main character is Shelby, but she is really just a supporting character. It is her life that is the glue that holds all of these people together. Shelby gets married, Shelby has a baby, Shelby gets ill, etc. But it is each of the other characters who put the outside pieces together of this beautifully written Southern poem. Mama M’Lynn is a mother hen, gentle and loving in every way, but strong and resistant. (In other words, she’s a Steel Magnolia). When tragedy hits her family, it is her friends who come flocking together to help M’Lynn deal with it. They are grouchy Ouiser, good-hearted Truvy, bashful Annelle and most outrageously, the cheerfully wisecracking one of the group, Clairee. Unlike the play on which this movie is based, men are included, and amongst them are Dylan McDermott as Roberts’ hubby to be, Tom Skerritt as M’Lynn’s rascal husband and Sam Shepard as Parton’s distant spouse. The men are there, but it is the women that the film concentrates on.

Everybody has great moments in this film, but it is Dukakis and MacLaine’s teaming that is particularly memorable, they definitely steal every magnolia scene they are in. Up against that you have the pairing of Parton and Hannah and indeed, they are excellent. They have equally great lines: Parton’s line about one relative not knowing whether to scratch their watch or wind their behind is a gem, as is Hannah’s delivery of the simple line about not letting her personal tragedy get in the middle of her doing good hair.

Sally Field gets the real chance to bite into the acting apple as she continues to hold in her grief through each of her sadness’s until like a volcano, she builds up and explodes. She is excellent and during writing of this review I discovered that missed out on a third Oscar Nomination for this film. Her physical reaction when, after emotionally blowing up, she witnesses Dukakis’s response to the whole scene is so believable because it filled with so much spontaneity and realism, and it is priceless.

That brings me to Julia Roberts, in this film she is the novice in a group full of veteran actors not that you can tell from her performance, which is probably why the Oscars gave her a nod for Supporting Actress. Her performance is understated and simple, yet filled with humanity, strength, and a quiet acceptance of a fate she can’t escape.

Bill McCutcheon is amusing as MacLaine’s old beau who pops up, and Skerritt is funny as M’Lynn’s scoundrel husband who loves harassing the grouchy Ouiser.

But to wrap things up in this long review, I can state that you don’t have to be female, Southern, or gay to really get into these women’s passionate friendship. The film is sumptuously filmed and features a beautiful musical score that is as touching as the friendship these ladies share. It is obvious from the tales several of these stars have told about making this film (Parton, MacLaine and Dukakis) that they loved working with each other. They should again.

Have you seen this film? Let us know your opinions in the comments below and of course if there are any films on Netflix UK you want us to review let us know!

About Tammy

A parent blogger and mom to 3 adorable children, who likes watching documentaries and dramas.

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