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.
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.
Academy Awards: Best Picture; Best Actress (Shirley MacLaine); Best Supporting Actor (Jack Nicholson); Best Director (James L. Brooks); Best Adapted Screenplay
Nominations: Best Actress (Debra Winger); Best Supporting Actor (John Lithgow); Best Art Direction; Best Film Editing; Best Sound; Best Original Score
Golden Globe Awards: Best Picture-Drama; Best Actress-Drama (Shirley MacLaine); Best Supporting Actor (Jack Nicholson); Best Screenplay
Nominations: Best Actress-Drama (Debra Winger); Best Director (James L. Brooks)