Now this is the tale of six friends from the South,
All women with strength and a very smart mouth.
M’Lynn is the mother of Shelby, a bride,
Who knows her mom worries but takes it in stride.
There’s Truvy, a stylist who’s hired Annelle,
Whose husband just left her and put her through hell.
Then lastly Clairee, quite the gossip and teaser,
Enjoys poking fun at her grouchy friend Ouiser.
The wedding goes well, though it causes much stress;
There’s shooting and screams, but it’s still a success.
Though Shelby’s a known diabetic, she’s glad
To soon become pregnant; her mother is mad.
The doctors told Shelby her body’s too weak,
But Shelby rebuff’s M’Lynn’s angry critique.
Supported by friends, Shelby bears a sweet boy;
Her time with her baby is truly a joy.
Her kidneys, however, are worse than they’ve been,
So she gets a transplant of one from M’Lynn.
Her body can’t take it, and problems arise;
She enters a coma and quietly dies.
M’Lynn, brokenhearted, is soothed by her peers,
Who prove there are more ways to cope than just tears.
Real life marches on, caring not how we feel,
But these girls are tough, like magnolias of steel.

Steel Magnolias is, quite frankly, the ultimate chick flick, but it is based on a play that was surprisingly written by a man. Robert Harling wrote it as a tribute to his sister, who died as Shelby did, and the deep emotions he infused into the story are certainly felt. These emotions are sad, yes, but also quite humorous. The dialogue is full of marvelous wit and cleverness and sounds very much as a group of gossipy Louisiana women should. My VC enjoys the music as well, which has just the right amount of Southern wistfulness. It’s a film that can have you giggling one moment and in tears the next. A scene toward the end exemplifies this dichotomy, suggesting that a good laugh is essential when things get too serious.

This film made Julia Roberts a gorgeous star and made Daryl Hannah ugly (at least compared with, say, Splash!). Roberts is very convincing as the stubborn diabetic Shelby, while Sally Field is equally dexterous as the justifiably worried M’Lynn. Though both deserved Oscar nominations (if not wins), only Roberts received one. The role of Truvy the neighborhood beautician fits Dolly Parton to a T, and Daryl Hannah is appropriately awkward as Annelle. My favorite characters, though, have to be Olympia Dukakis as Clairee and Shirley MacLaine as Ouiser. MacLaine especially steals every scene she’s in, and between the two of them, they receive the majority of the good lines and hilarious vignettes.

I suppose the plot mainly focuses on Shelby and her choice to have a child despite the risks, but the film belongs to all the characters. Their individual stories all melding into an entertaining slice of life are what make the film so enjoyable. There’s Tom Skerritt’s sparring with Ouiser (who’s nearly as formidable as that Alien); there’s Annelle’s newfound religiosity that annoys her friends at times; there’s Clairee’s little story for Shelby’s son that is sure to instill fear of Ouiser for years to come. It’s certainly a chick flick, but these little snapshots of life make it a darn good one.

Best line (so many to choose from): (Clairee, when grumpy Ouiser comes in) “Ouiser, you sound almost chipper. What happened today – you run over a small child or something?”

VC’s best line: (Ouiser) “I’m not crazy, M’Lynn. I’ve just been in a very bad mood for forty years!”

Artistry: 8
Characters/Actors: 10
Entertainment: 9
Visual Effects: N/A
Originality: 7
Watchability: 9
Other (language and crude elements): -4
TOTAL: 39 out of 60

Next: #221 – City Slickers

© 2014 S. G. Liput

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