1989, Movies

Steel Magnolias (1989, directed by Herbert Ross)

This is one of those “women’s movies” that I avoided like the plague when I was younger. (Not entirely true – when I was in my teens I would catch 10 minutes of one on TV and rate it without watching it, inevitably giving it a ridiculously low rating.) One of the many things I had no idea about, whether due to my own ignorance or because of the reputations of these “types” of films, is that this is a comedy. And it’s funny.

Maybe I’m just an asshole but it does strike me as pretty indicative of the inherent sexism of our society that I didn’t realize this movie was a comedy. It was so clearly marketed to women – as if men couldn’t enjoy a film where the stars are all women – that I missed this. (Also, I was 7 or 8 when it came out…)

So yes, this is a funny movie. And it’s only partially funny because of it’s small town people being silly. At least some of the humour is in the actual characters, who are well developed. They feel like real people even though some of them may be originally rooted in stereotype. (Also, this is the least “Daryl Hannah” I’ve ever seen Daryl Hannah. Kudos to her and the costume department. She’s barely recognizable.)

The movie is remarkably well shot. I hope I would have noticed that even if I hadn’t noticed Herbert Ross made this movie, but it does feel like there is a care to the shots that I don’t associate with this “genre”.

There is, of course, a massive left tun in this film. It’s been 30+ years so I should be fine spoiling it but I won’t. It’s a left turn that feels extremely brave – and difficult to pull off successfully. (Though some of that is hindsight given the casting looks very different now than it would have in 1989.) It does make me wonder how many “women’s movies” had these kinds of crazy emotional left turns and I just missed them, because they were marketed to women and not necessarily given enough attention by critics. (Though this was.) I also wonder if marketers weren’t sure if they could market such left turns to men. (After all, in the ’80s you couldn’t market a film to men telling them it would make them cry, right?)

Pretty good.


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