TERMS OF ENDEARMENT, 1983
Starring: Shirley McClain, Debra Winger, Jack Nicholson, Jeff Daniels, John Lithgow, Danny DeVito
Aurora and Emma are mother and daughter. At times they don't get along, but they're always there for each other when needed, whether it be over man troubles, finances, or illness.
In my efforts to watch every movie that's won the “Best Picture” Oscar at the Academy Awards, I've come across the movie that won the prize for the year that I was born- 1983. It amuses me that even then, some of these actors were old enough to play middle-aged men!
Aurora is an overbearing mother who's also prone to jumping to conclusions and expects everything to be done a certain way... HER way. This is evident right off the bat in the opening scene of the movie in which she argues with her off-screen husband over whether her baby is asleep in her crib, or has in fact died. She believes the child dead (despite the husbands logic of a sleeping baby) until she practically gets into the crib with her and pinches her awake into a screaming/crying fit.
Fast forward to the baby now being a pre-teen and she and her mother move into a new house after the death of her father. Fast forward to Emma now being a teenager and getting gawking looks from the movers hired to help an astronaut move in next door while her mother is a stubborn prude toward the man trying to court her. Fast forward to Emma on the day before her wedding, getting high with her best friend and her mother announcing that she will NOT be attending the wedding because she doesn't think the future husband is good enough for her daughter.
All of this, showing Emma wanting to have fun and a normal life while her mother tries to control everything is just the first 10 minutes of the film and beautifully demonstrates the drastic dynamic differences in the two women that sets the stage for character growth to spring forth from.
Over the next few years, Emma and her husband, Flap will move away from Emma's mother and have 3 kids. Meanwhile, Aurora has multiple suitors at once who don't seem to mind hanging out with her simultaneously as they each vie for her affections (how very “Gone with the Wind of Them”).
Emma starts to believe that Flap is having an affair, and ends up having one of her own with a married man. The only person she confides this information to is her mother. Meanwhile, Aurora has began dating the former astronaut next door and indeed has sex for the first time in 20+ years!
Flap moves the family yet again for a new job... and on the same day Emma finds out that there's actually another woman in this new town (the real reason for the move), she finds out that she has a tumor. Aurora tries to be there for Emma as much as possible, despite having her own drama with the astronaut deciding he's not ready for commitment.
“Terms of Endearment” is a FAR better film than I was expecting! And the skillful story telling can be “proved” by how well it did at the Oscars: winning best picture, best actress, best supporting actor, best director and best adapted screenplay; while also receiving a handful of other nominations.
The acting in this film is great all around (which is why all 4 main characters were nominated for their roles, and 2 of them won!). Shirley McClain does a fabulous role as the over-bearing mother Aurora. Her character can be found not only in her voice and actions, but even her simple mannerisms like a look or a simple facial twitch. Jack Nicholson plays... well himself from all I can tell. Jeff Daniels has what I believe is his best role to date here, and even Debra Winger does a good job making her character believable (despite the fact that I thought her character was annoying).
The story plays out very well. All the proper twists and turns are there that at the time broke new ground for comedic dramas, and set the stage for the “cliches” of modern comedic dramas. I laughed out loud on numerous occasions, and found myself tearing up near the end. There is character growth and an enticing story that makes the screenplay for this film a classic.
Cinematography and editing were both so-so with good parts and bad.
The music made the film feel more like an after-school special rather than a feature length academy award winning film. It was far too simplistic and felt old and didn't always fit the scenes it played during.
Is this the best movie I've seen? Not by a long shot. It's not even the best Oscar winner I've seen, but it definitely deserves the hype it's been given and I can see why it was so critically acclaimed and won the awards it did. It's a classic masterpiece that should definitely be on your “too watch” list!
I give “Terms of Endearment” a 3.5 out of 5.
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