Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB. USA, 1995. Universal Pictures, Amblin Entertainment. Screenplay by Jane Anderson, based on the novel by Whitney Otto. Cinematography by Janusz Kaminski. Produced by Sarah Pillsbury, Midge Sanford. Music by Thomas Newman. Production Design by Leslie Dilley. Costume Design by Ruth Myers. Film Editing by Jill Bilcock.
How much better this film would have been if it had only taken enough time to tell its many stories. Winona Ryder stars in this adaptation of the popular Whitney Otto novel about a young woman working on her university master’s thesis unsuccessfully after having changed the subject of it numerous times. Spending the summer in a small California town with her grandmother (Ellen Burstyn) to work out her studies and ruminate over the marriage proposal she just received from her boyfriend (Dermot Mulroney, dopey-eyed as ever), she finds herself surrounded by the women of her grandmother’s quilting bee, listening to their many tales of love lost and found, inspired by them towards decisions of her own. Some of the stories are definitely more moving than others, but even the best of them are squashed down by director Jocelyn Moorhouse’s hurriedness in getting through the story. The marvelous ensemble cast also includes Maya Angelou, Lois Smith, Kate Nelligan, Anne Bancroft, Jean Simmons, Alfre Woodard, Rip Torn, Claire Danes and many more, plus a lovely cameo by Kate Capshaw as Ryder’s wayward mother and Johnathon Schaech as a new romantic possibility in our heroine’s confused state of being. The beautiful montage in the conclusion, where the women finally finish the quilt that they are sewing, makes the film worth the watch in itself, but the wonderful theme of life as a patchwork of experiences good and bad deserves a much better treatment than the one given here.