(Today’s NaPoWriMo prompt was for a didactic “how to” poem, and I just so happened to have the perfect film in mind.)

How does one make an American quilt?
How is a life or a good marriage built?
Not from one cloth but from many combined:
It’s fashioned from stories, gold thread of mankind,
From tales and details
And the blazing of trails,
From losses and crosses
And dead albatrosses
And windmills at which many tilt.

Gather the patches that everyone gives,
The plugs for the holes in our memories’ sieves,
And just as our fortunes are linked to our neighbors’,
Sew up the loose swatches of everyone’s labors.
Recall passion’s thrall,
Both its rise and its fall.
Every weakness or peak
Of which few live to speak.
Love, guilt and tears spilt
Make a worthwhile quilt
That warns us and warms us and lives.

MPAA rating: PG-13

Marriage is a tough business. Not that I have personal experience with it, but there are enough soured romances in books, films, and personal accounts that it’s clearly not easy. Falling in love is simple; it’s what comes after that’s hard. Such is the main lesson of How to Make an American Quilt, a female ensemble about an engaged woman named Finn (Winona Ryder) who has second thoughts about marriage after hearing the various stories of the women in her grandmother’s quilting bee.

This is undoubtedly a chick flick, with everything coming from the women’s perspective. The accounts of their past loves are rather varied, ranging from one-night stands, impulsive affairs, disappointing married lives, and unfulfilled dreams, most of which casts marriage and particularly husbands in an unavoidably depressing light. Finn has trouble with commitment in her academic life, and hearing all these tales of woe is the last thing she should be doing on the eve of marriage. It’s no surprise then that her engagement is endangered.

It’s not all bad. The acting is consistently good, particularly from old pros like Anne Bancroft, Ellen Burstyn, Jean Simmons, and Alfre Woodard, and I was surprised at some small roles for Jared Leto, Claire Danes, and Mykelti Williamson. While their individual stories are full of repeated disillusionment, little details become more significant as these stories do indeed weave themselves into a tapestry or quilt of life, from which different meanings may be drawn. Thus, How to Make an American Quilt seems to endorse hope and a willingness to try for success, even though the idea of marriage itself doesn’t quite recover from all the disillusionment that came before.

P.S. To be honest, the main reason I found this worth watching was Winona Ryder. I never realized just how gorgeous she was, based on the roles I’ve seen of hers, like Beetlejuice. Here, she’s like a cross between Kate Winslet in Titanic and Shailene Woodley in The Fault in Our Stars. I can’t help but feel I have a new screen crush.

Best line: (Finn) “Young lovers seek perfection. Old lovers learn the art of sewing shreds together and of seeing beauty in a multiplicity of patches.”


Rank: List Runner-Up


© 2016 S. G. Liput

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