Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5.
USA, 1983. Paramount Pictures. Screenplay by James L. Brooks, based on the novel by Larry McMurtry. Cinematography by Andrzej Bartkowiak. Produced by James L. Brooks. Music by Michael Gore. Production Design by Polly Platt. Costume Design by Kristi Zea. Film Editing by Richard Marks. Academy Awards 1983. Golden Globe Awards 1983. National Board of Review Awards 1983. New York Film Critics Awards 1983.
Like Kramer Vs. Kramer, this moving drama is a straightforward, honestly emotional account of the ups and downs of family relationships. Shirley MacLaine shines as a commanding Texas matriarch whose desire to control her daughter’s happiness is so strong she even skips the young woman’s wedding just to prove her point. Debra Winger matches MacLaine blow for blow as an equally headstrong woman who needs no one to tell her what to do. As she heads into the dark waters of marriage and motherhood with her college professor husband (Jeff Daniels), her mother learns to relax when she discovers romance with her new neighbour, a womanizing astronaut (Jack Nicholson) who just loves to be a cad. When seen now, the plotting and pace resemble television soap opera more than cinema, but there’s no denying just how deeply the characters are felt and how much their good times and bad become so meaningful to the audience. Brooks’s excellent dialogue is the principle asset, with scene-stealing performances (irrepressible Jack!) providing the rest of the enjoyment.