Saturday, September 8, 2012

702. Terms of Endearment (1983)

Running Time: 132 minutes
Directed By: James L. Brooks
Written By: James L. Brooks, from novel by Larry McMurtry
Main Cast: Shirley MacLaine, Debra Winger, Jack Nicholson, Jeff Daniels, John Lithgow
Click here to view the trailer


I love "Terms of Endearment" and as a guy, I almost have to consider it a guilty pleasure. There's also the fact that the film is VERY Hollywood and as a film snob I also have to consider it a guilty pleasure. But I don't care, because I'll be damned if this movie doesn't get me every damn time I watch it.

The film opens with a mother tearing herself away from her husband because she has to check on the baby. The husband pleads with the mother to return to bed and assures her that the baby is fine, but the mother is insistent upon checking. Upon checking, the mother realizes that the baby isn't breathing. The father assures her that the baby is only sleeping and that she is fine. The mother is convinced that the baby has died of crib death and starts to climb into the baby's crib. Suddenly, the baby begins to cry and the mother's worries are put to rest. This kind of sets the tone for the film - a mother who would rather have her baby crying and unhappy, knowing she's allright rather than a baby who is happy, with the mother having doubts and worries. Aurora Greenway (MacLaine) is the mother and Emma (Winger) is her baby and over the course of the first ten minutes of the film, we're shown quick vignettes that shoot the characters into an older age. Emma plans to marry Flap Horton (Daniels), a man that Aurora isn't fond of and a marriage that she contests, citing that Emma isn't special enough to overcome a failed marriage. The film focuses on the sometimes atypical relationship between Emma and Aurora, as Emma DOES get married, moves to Iowa and begins a family of her own, always being sure to keep her mother on the other end of the phone. Meanwhile, Garrett Breedlove (Nicholson), an astronaut who moved in next door to Aurora years ago, finally breaks the silence between the two neighbors when the two plan a lunch date. Aurora, a classy, sophisticated older lady, is used to men worshiping her and when Garrett refuses to do so, he gets her attention with his crassness and straight forward attitude. The film follows the characters through MANY years and as time passes, you can't help but shed some tears for the characters and their situations. As Orson Welles said about "Make Way for Tomorrow", this movie would make a stone cry.

I get how some people don't like this film and usually snobby film types cite it as too weepy and too cliche. I understand those feelings, I just don't share them. When I was a kid, the Lifetime Network (a cable station in the U.S. that shows primarily made-for-television, chick flicks) would get about one "real" movie a month - meaning one movie that wasn't made-for-television and that had actually been in theaters. When they got THAT movie, they'd usually play it into the ground, showing it as much as their programming schedule would allow. One month, Lifetime got "Terms of Endearment" and as a young'n, I fell in love with this movie, watching it several times over the course of that month. I've often spoke of "my movies", the movies that have been favorites of mine for so long that they basically get a free pass. If the movies were bar patrons and I owned a bar, they'd be the types of movies that could simply walk in and say "put it on my tab". They're the movies that have sculpted my current, twenty-eight year old personal tastes. Why do I love "Terms of Endearment"? Because I just do! But there's more than that and like I always say, it's harder for me to explain why I like the movies that I've liked for so long.

I'm not one who cries that much at movies anymore. Sometimes it even bothers me that I can't be bothered to shed a tear, even under the most tragic of cinematic circumstances. Sometimes, I've encountered moments on film where I just wanted to stick myself with a pin, so that I'd cry for the characters that deserved to be cried for, but for whom my eyes just wouldn't well up. I've often wondered if I'm capable of crying during movies anymore and last night, "Terms of Endearment" answered my question.

There's this one episode of "The Big Bang Theory" (YES, I love that show) where Raj gets all cuddled up in bed, turns on the television and as he does, we hear: "Coming up next on Turner Classic Movies, Bridget Jones Diary". Raj replies with "Oh my God I'm crying already!", delivering his lines through a tissue. That's how I feel when it comes to "Terms of Endearment". As soon as the movie started and I heard that score (perhaps the most recognizable score in film history) my eyes knew they were in for a wet night. This movie also has the unbelievable power to make me smile and I'd call it, perhaps, the most "make me smile" movie in the history of movies. But it's not just that expression, it's others too. If a scene is sad, but not quite cry worthy, I'll snap out of my connection to the film to find my face contorted in a sort of half frown, giving my hearts to the characters who are moving me.

Technically, I love it too. The acting, for my money, is great and this is perhaps Shirley MacLaine's greatest role. I love Nicholson too and while the book suggests that the performances of those two threaten to upstage the performances of the others, I disagree. The score is one of my all-time favorite scores in film history, at times speaking for the characters and moving the story along just by being played.


Weepiest moments for me personally: When Garrett appears at the top of the stairs in the hotel and he and Aurora reunite (EVERY DAMN TIME!) and of course, the scene where Emma dies.

RATING: 10/10  "Drugstore Cowboy" has been toppled and it's might just take the Rock of Gibraltar to move "Terms of Endearment" out of the #1 spot.


September 8, 2012  11:07am

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