Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Terms of Endearment

Nominees: The Big Chill, The Dresser, The Right Stuff, and Tender Mercies

He Said: Terms of Endearment, Or how I learned to worry about everything, and almost cry...almost

Not sure what to expect with this one, I had heard of it before but didn't really know anything about it. Turns out to be a chick flick. The movie basically follows the life of a relatively normal person, Emma Horton, living in Houston from birth and accelerates fairly quickly through her life. I think the idea of the film was to show us what every day lives are all about, but it was very disjointed and with some poor writing in parts and to me did not have a very good flow. 

The movie starts off with Emma as a baby and we see the start of her relationship with her mother (Aurora), which is problematic and difficult most of the time, even at this young age. The movie then jumps to her as a pre-teen with the death of her father and demonstrates her mother's general psychological instability and her neediness and reliability on her daughter, a theme carried on throughout the film. After her pre-teen moment we jump into the teen years briefly and then spend the rest of the movie in her adult years from getting married to having kids, marriage strife and infidelity, and so on. As I said earlier, the movie seems disjointed mainly because it spends a few minutes on her at this age, then jumps quickly to something else then something else. Even when she is an adult it jumps around and the only way of knowing that the movie has moved on to further years is seeing older children around her, at which point we ask if these are her kids or just some other kids? Perhaps using a subtitled date would help with the disjointed feeling. Ultimately I think they should have spent a bit more time in these various time points to flesh things out a bit more and cut out some of the time spent on her adult life and her mother's life, parts that don't really move the film along and don't add to the character development at all.

In regard to character development, the characters are basically who they are from the beginning with very little change as they age and experience new things. The mother is still as jaded and untrustworthy at the start as at the end, the husband is still a cheater who doesn't feel responsible for his actions. The crazy astronaut neighbour is still a playboy, with perhaps a bit more loving for Aurora at the end. Which reminds me, how did he know where they were at the end? He stopped seeing the mother romantically and hadn't spoken to her in years and all of the sudden he appears in Nebraska out of the blue. Maybe someone called him to tell him but with all the disjointedness and jumping around in the movie they may have glossed over this small detail. 

Jeff Daniels plays the part of Emma's husband and he does a decent job of playing the part. I learned that Jeff Daniels hasn't changed his hair since 1980, I guess he liked the look and went with it. He certainly had a large fall from this to Dumb and Dumber, but that's the way things go sometimes. 

There is quite a large chunk of the movie focused on Aurora and her love affair with the smarmy womanizing neighbour astronaut (played by Jack Nicolson). One nice thing about this relationship is that it has equally aged male and female actors and roles which is a nice change to see rather than the movies of the past 20 years or so featuring older men with much younger women. In addition to the focus on this love affair, throughout the movie we see Aurora surrounded by various men friends who are just trying desperately to become romantically involved with her. I remember thinking how odd it was to invite one's doctor over for you birthday dinner, especially when the dinner was just a bunch of men. Another odd Aurora moment is after finally having had sex with the astronaut she calls up Emma to tell her all about it. Um...ew. How would you like your mother calling you to tell you about her sex life. Not so sure what that was all about, perhaps relief after all those years after the death of her husband finally getting satisfaction again did something to her. She was certainly in desperate need of some female friends, that's for sure. I know we should all have the birds and the bees talk with our parents, but when your mom is telling you about her renewed sex life with the neighbour, I think this skips over the too much information area and right into oh my god that is disgusting please stop talking now...please.

Thinking about the movie, perhaps how we get there isn't the point. Maybe it doesn't matter how much the movie jumps around from one area to the next and one decade to another with no explanation in-between. Maybe what matters is the people getting through their lives and what happens in the end. I don't know, I am just speculating here, but to me I feel the movie would have done better to flesh out some of these details, that way we would feel closer ties to them. Furthermore, the film spends so long on seemingly pointless scenes that if we only were to get a flavour of things and move on one wouldn't expect to spend that much time on an individual scene. Frankly I didn't like any of the characters, I found them curious and odd and enjoyed watching from an experimental point-of-view to see what happened next to them like bugs in a jar, but otherwise I didn't give a damn. So I guess I didn't understand what the director and writer were trying to achieve.

Terms of Endearment is simply okay, nothing more nothing less. It has its moments and at the end yes even I, the Grinch, had a moment of nearly tearing, nearly. It won the Oscar for many areas including best picture, two for acting, writing, and directing, not to mention numerous other nominations it received. I don't know how it won the Oscar for best picture but I have not seen the other nominees (The Big Chill, The Dresser, The Right Stuff, and Tender Mercies) to be able to compare, but I am damn sure something else was made this year that was better. Even Return of the Jedi with the stupid Ewoks had more interest than this movie. I looked up some 1983 films and Scarface was made that year, a magnificent gem, admittedly it is ultraviolent and the Academy tends to steer clear of those, but how did Pacino not win for that one, he did an amazing job as usual. I think Terms of Endearment had a good overall plot but the execution was lacking and it ended up being overly dry and boring.

So there you have it, a mostly boring, slightly emotional movie about a woman's life. If you missed it, you won't actually miss anything. 

Next up Amadeus, the life and time of mister Mozart,apparently with some graphic violence I hear. Should be interesting...