Rookie Reviews: Steel Magnolias

Is the southern classic really that spiritual of an experience?

"But you get through it and life goes on." 

I particularly liked that underlying theme of Steel Magnolias. Life sucks from time to time but we will make it through and life does, in fact, go on. 

The 1989 flick starring a phenomenal cast of women — Sally Field, Darryl Hannah, Julia Roberts, Shirley MacLaine, Dolly Parton, Olympia Dukakis — earned more than $95 million dollars and opened to mixed reviews, but has quite a devoted fandom that follows it in the present day. One preface to the movie I got was that it'd be a life-altering experience of a film. It was set up to me as one of the biggest movies of all time that everyone HAS to have seen (hence the premise of this segment). 

But that didn't happen for me. Good movie, just not spiritual. 

Don't get me wrong, I liked it! Who doesn't like gal-pals sticking together through bad days and the good, catching up on town gossip at the hair salon? Some of the women have money, but not all of them. But they are girlfriends despite wealth and income and that is sweet.

There are tender moments when the movie hits on topics such as infertility and illness — Shelby fears her new husband Jackson won't love her if she can't conceive due to her severe diabetes. Later once she does get pregnant, M'Lynn struggles to accept the pregnancy, in fear of Shelby's health. Shelby desperately tries to make her mother face the reality that pregnancy, be it complicated or even unsuccessful, was her only option. She felt a judge wouldn't approve an adoption for a woman like her after all her medical battles. That struck me, watching the movie in 2017 instead of 1989. And so did this quote:

"I would rather have thirty minutes of wonderful than a lifetime of nothing special."

I should add that I think Sally Field was robbed of an award for her portrayal of M'Lynn. The hospital scenes. The funeral scenes. Her depiction of how bonkers grief is to deal with. Her breakdown in the cemetery. Here's my favorite moment from that scene:

"I just sat there. I just held Shelby's hand. There was no noise, no tremble, just peace. Oh god. I realize as a woman how lucky I am. I was there when that wonderful creature drifted into my life and I was there when she drifted out. It was the most precious moment of my life."

Sally was robbed.

The movie ended poetically but I'd also argue a bit abruptly.

It's Easter, so we know it's near Jack and Shelby's anniversary, the first since she died. Easter is a time of celebrating life, death and life beyond death. In a seasonal sense, spring brings new growth after the dead of winter. 

But then a bunch of drama builds up, only to drop of moments later. Think about it — Jack Junior slaps Ouiser, has a crying meltdown and runs off. Kevin looks like a terrifying Easter bunny and is about to surprise the kids. Annelle goes into labor and takes off. But that's where it ends. The truck driving to the hospital. I felt robbed of an actual ending. What does the baby look like? Was it a boy or a girl that they named Shelby? Shouldn't the baby being born be the ending? 

But I digress. And I get through it and life moves on. 

Overall, I liked it and found it to be good. It just wasn't as spiritual for me as it seems it is for other women. 

FWIW: You can find a review I really liked here, from Roger Ebert (the actual professional at movie reviewing — may he RIP).