Film Reviews

Dolly Month: Steel Magnolias (1989)

Starring: Dolly Parton, Sally Field, Shirley MacLaine, Daryl Hannah, Olympia Dukakis, Julia Roberts, Tom Skerritt, Dylan McDermott

Director: Herbert Ross

A beautiful ensemble film, with an absolutely incredible cast, Steel Magnolias opens with an awkward and lost looking Annelle (Hannah) shuffling into a small Louisiana town and getting a job at Truvy’s (Parton) beauty shop. There she is welcomed into the lives, loves and tragedies of the lives of the women who are regular customers and friends there. Though Annelle is our entry point, the film is really Sally Field’s, as she plays M’Lynn, a mother whose daughter (Roberts) is getting married. The film moves from holiday to holiday, taking us through time from marriage to birth and death, showing how though the women seem sometimes fragile and always feminine, underneath they have a core of steel and their friendship holds them together.

Watching this again, it amazes me how much this film manages to get in. It moves quite swiftly, opening on an Easter, and taking in various holidays over a few years, from Christmas to 4th July and Halloween and back to Easter again. Each character is a full person, with their own story, past and hopes and dreams and you care about each one. Each one grows in some way, we understand the warm and complex relationships between them all, and yet there’s not loads of exposition or anything.

Although Sally Field’s performance blows me away every time I watch this, there isn’t anyone here who isn’t really good. Dolly as a beauty shop owner is wonderful. She’s warm and cares about everyone, giving Annelle a chance to turn her life around by giving her a job, but her husband is caught up in his own work problems and isn’t as romantic as when they got together years before. Ouiser (MacLaine) and Clairee (Dukakis) are absolutely wonderful as old friends who are very different but very close, and often behave a little bit like children with each other. MacLaine as the local grump cracks me up, she has the best acidic one liners and manages to have the funniest sour face. She’s such a great contrast to some of the other characters. Everyone is really very good.

I’m not always a fan of films that are overly emotional weepies, but this film is really beautiful, heart warming and real. It draws you in and makes you laugh, but it also breaks your heart. It’s a drama but it never goes too far into being emotional. You feel like the characters all have history and really care about each other, and so you care about them too. There’s something really amazing about the quiet strength of women and our enduring relationships with each other, which we can draw strength and comfort from in times of need, and this film really celebrates that. I love it.

See It If: A classic drama that’s been a favorite of many for years, this is a really well made drama with an excellent cast. Though some of you might find it too much of a chick flick, it’s a really good film and I recommend it.

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7 thoughts on “Dolly Month: Steel Magnolias (1989)”

    1. That’s a really great idea. I could definitely do it later in the year. I wouldn’t be able to cover all his films in a month, maybe just favorite ones and ones I hadn’t seen? Any films of his you’d really like covered or recommend?

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