13. Steel Magnolias


Movie: Steel Magnolias

Release Date: November 15, 1989

Director: Herbert Ross

Starring: Sally Field, Julia Roberts, Dolly Parton, Olympia Dukakis, Shirley MacLaine, Daryl Hannah, Tom Skerritt, Dylan McDermott, Sam Shepard, Kevin J, O’Connor.

Tag Lines: “The funniest movie ever to make you cry.”

“Sometimes laughter is a matter of life and death.”

Relevance: 1989 was a big year for me. Madonna released her “Like A Prayer” album, I graduated from High School and I started my first semester at college. I wasn’t the most outgoing of fellows (I am still quite the introvert) so that first semester was quite lonely for me. My roommate went home every weekend (he eventually dropped out of school later that semester) and I really didn’t make a lot of new friends, so I spent most of the time in my dorm room alone. I did get excellent grades that semester, something positive to come out of those few months, but I longed to go back home as much as I possibly could. However, being two hours away, it was a rare occasion. I did manage to go back home once in September and once again in October. They were pretty quick trips as traveling only really gave me Saturdays to “be home.” As soon as I returned from that October trip, I was counting down the days until Thanksgiving, where I would spend five glorious days back with my family and friends. Something else big happened in 1989 over that Thanksgiving break. I saw ‘Steel Magnolias.’

‘Steel Magnolias,’ a film directed by Herbert Ross, was released on November 15, 1989. It received generally positive reviews from critics, especially in regards to Julia Roberts’ performance, a generally unknown actress at that time. She went on to be nominated for an Academy Award for her role and has since become a Hollywood superstar. Audiences loved the film as it spent sixteen weeks in the top ten and grossed just shy of $100 million, not too shabby for a drama released in 1989 with an all female cast.

While at home for Thanksgiving break, in between all of the turkey and pies, I went to the movies with a group of friends. There were probably six to eight of us that went. I am not sure exactly why we chose ‘Steel Magnolias.’ It might have been my suggestion, or I might have just tagged along to hang out with my friends I hadn’t seen in weeks. Regardless, that was the movie we chose. It was a very crowded movie theater but we were all able to sit together in one row. I don’t think any of us knew exactly what kind of film we were about to see, at least I didn’t, but little did I know that it would be a movie that would stay with me for the rest of my life.

The movie entertained the hell out of all of us. We laughed, we cried and we were completely entertained for the entire two hours. At that time, I knew who everyone in the cast was except for Julia Roberts, and they were all perfection, especially Ms. Roberts. It was clear to me that she was going to become a big star and one year later, she would be (see 74. Pretty Woman). The story was sweet and heartbreaking and very, very funny. After the movie ended, as many of us were wiping away tears and deciding where to go for pizza, we all declared the movie a huge hit. During the credits, I had noticed that the movie was based on a play by Robert Harling. Being a theater fan, I quickly sought that out when I went back to school to finish out that semester.

After reading the play, my obsession with this film continued. As soon as it was released to home media, I rented it numerous times. Sometimes with family, other times with friends who had not seen it. I remember one time renting the movie and taking it to a friend’s house. Her mom started watching it with us. During the hypoglycemic attack scene, the mom said, “If she dies I am going to kill you guys.” We survived, although the mom did weep at the end of the movie. Through her tears though, she did mention how much she loved the film. My mother, who was a huge Sally Field fan, absolutely loved the movie as well. It quickly became a part of her movie collection as soon as humanly possible. The more I watched it, the more and more I became a fan.

The movie made a prominent resurgence in my life in 1995. Around the time I was getting married, the sister of the bride became obsessed with the film and watched it all of the time. She learned the movie verbatim and would quote it incessantly. Her and her mom would often recreate scenes from the film to entertain themselves. There are even some wedding photos of her giving her sister (the bride) juice at the beauty parlor the day of the big event, because “juice is better.” The referencing and quoting did not stop after the wedding. In fact knowing how much she loved it, I am sure that she still quotes the movie to this very day. The marriage might not have lasted, but the ‘Steel Magnolias’ influence was unstoppable.

Despite that specific memory of the movie, the film grew even more and more important to me as the years went on. It’s a film I watched all of the time, as I myself purchased a copy for myself, and each time grew more and more in love with it. Like my ex-sister-in-law, I learned the script through osmosis and would reference it at least once a day. All of my friends love this movie, most of them being gay. There is something about strong female characters that will always unite gay men. Because of that, quotes from the movie were used a lot in my life. “That’s attractive, Ouiser.” “Pink is my signature color.” “You are a pig from hell.” “It’s almost time for the Easter Bunny.” Let’s just say they have all been used more than once in my life. Not to mention “I love you more than my luggage” gets said every time I end a phone conversation with my best friend. ‘Steel Magnolias’ is more than just a movie for me, it’s a way of life.

Today’s Thoughts: “Annelle, take your Bible and shove it where the sun doesn’t shine.”

Apparently it is a Sally Field double feature on my blog as yesterday’s film (see 14. Mrs. Doubtfire) also starred my mom’s favorite actress. She’d be very proud to know that Ms. Field has two movies in the top twenty of my favorite movies of all time. Despite having seen this movie a thousand times, as well as seeing it performed on stage, I never get tired of the story and these characters. So with a cup of coffee and a box of Kleenex, I watched ‘Steel Magnolias.’

What more can I say about this movie? It is my thirteenth favorite, most influential movie of all time and I simply love it. It still makes me laugh out loud and it most definitely still makes me cry. Every. Time. It’s filled with wonderful performances, great lines, (“They don’t give a damn about that grape shit”) and some of the best “laughter through tears” anyone will ever experience from film. I absolutely loved watching it again today.

‘Steel Magnolias’ is a classic. Period. There are really very few other comedy/drama movies with this much heart, talent and memories associated with it for me. It is a simple, yet elegant tale that always puts a smile on my face. If you haven’t seen this film yet, what are you waiting for? I promise you, you will not be disappointed.

Awards: Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role, Julia Roberts (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture, Julia Roberts (winner), Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama, Sally Field (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role, Shirley MacLaine (nomination).

Ways to Watch: Amazon Prime, Vudu, YouTube, Google Play, iTunes, DVD Availability.


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