Kathy Bates, Jessica Tandy, Mary-Louise Parker and Mary Stuart Masterson
First of all, hands up those who cried or got a suspicious ‘thing’ in your eye (if you’re too big and butch for crying) at either of the deaths? MmmHmm… thought so. Personally the first one doesn’t really get me now… it did the first time I saw it, but the second one makes me sad every time to a lesser or greater degree, pretty much depending on my mood at the time of viewing.
Now we have that confession out of the way…
The film centres around four strong female characters, from two time periods the 1980’s and the 20’s/30’s, Mrs Cleo Threadgoode (Ninny) (Tandy) an 82 year old widow and Evelyn Couch (Bates) from the 80’s and Idgie Threadgoode (Masterson) and her ‘good friend’ Ruth Jamison (Parker) for the earlier period. Complete with an array of ‘colourful’ supporting characters, from; the ‘hobo’ Smokey Lonesome, to mother and son Sipsey and Big George, to the entire Threadgoode clan.
This film has it all; love, friendship, civil rights, birth, death, marriage, religion, weight issues, racial differences, the KKK and good food. All in one hour and forty minutes, can’t be bad.
The film jumps easily between the two time periods by means of stories told by Ninny to Evelyn in the nursing home. Based on the wonderful and admittedly slightly more satisfying book by Fannie Flagg (she also wrote the screenplay) the film differs marginally from the book, particularly in the way that Idgie and Ruth’s relationship is portrayed. In the book it is reasonably implicit that the two are in a relationship, whether or not it is sexual is perhaps a matter of opinion, but that they love each, that they are in love with each other is non-debateable. In the film it is never quite as obvious, they still live together, they are raising Ruth’s son, Buddy Jr. together, but unlike the book it is never stated explicitly that they love each other, in the words of Victoria Wood “They are just really good chums”.
Idgie and Ruth stand out from their time period and environment due to their actions, opinions and appearances. Idgie is the a-typical tomboy who wears men’s clothes, loves Ruth (it’s never especially clear in the book or the film, whether she likes women or just Ruth), gambles, drinks, co-owns and runs her own business, is racially unprejudiced and generally sticks up for the little guy.
Ruth is braver than Idgie in many ways. She chose to walk away from an abusive and violent marriage, which was likely almost unheard of at the time. She raised her child with Idgie as co-parent whom she is also in business with, feeds ‘coloured’ folk out back of the café and has generally risked more in her life and is thus the truly brave one of the two.
In the ‘present’ day (80’s), Evelyn Couch is a woman who has been somewhat left behind in life, married to a man who doesn’t really seem to appreciate or understand her, and is desperately trying to work out just who she is and where she stands in life. With the aid of an unexpected new friend at the Rose Terrace nursing home (where her husband’s aunt resides); Ninny and the stories she tells of depression era America and the exploits of Idgie and Ruth. Evelyn ends up with a career with Mary Kay and feeling better about herself than she ever has. Along with gaining an alter-ego from Idgie’s influence, ‘Towanda’ who rights wrongs wherever she goes.
Another great film about embracing who you and others are acceptance and friendship. This is one of my all time favourite films (and books – see also: ‘My Classics’).
8/10 – Simply for welching out on the central love story, otherwise it would get higher. Still remains my favourite though.