I've always been fascinated by good acting. It can make a break a film for me. TERMS OF ENDEARMENT is an acting feast, boasting stellar performances from Shirley MacLaine and Debra Winger (as unlikely a biological mother/daughter combo as you can imagine, but hey, this is the movies). Jack Nicholoson does his thing as your typical astronaut-next door, and is effective, although it's a bit surprising that he walked off with an Oscar for what was, for him, pretty much a walk-through. John Lithgow and a young Jeff Daniels don't have all that much to do either, although like Nicholson, they are, at least, true to form. But this is one for the ladies, and it belongs to its two female leads.
I had a chuckle when I read Amazon's Tom Keough's review posted above. "Lumpy" is not a bad term for this film. It's really another one of those Hollywood adaptations, where you just know the book had to be better, even if you've never read the book. Everything here is just a little too rushed, a little too sketchy. You know time's flying because different child actors keep cropping up, playing the same roles at different ages. There seems to be an inordinate haste to get to the meat of the drama, which is, of course, the illness and death of Debra Winger's character.
Overall, a better and more authentic weep-fest than, say, BEACHES or LOVE STORY. Not quite as powerful a family drama as, say, the similarly themed ORDINARY PEOPLE, however. Well worth seeing, if like me, you've somehow missed it all these years. If nothing else, you can learn a great deal about the actor's craft from watching two truly great actresses.