Terms of Endearment
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Larry McMurtry's novel becomes a somewhat lumpy film as directed by James L. Brooks (As Good As It Gets). Nevertheless, it is entirely winning, with Shirley MacLaine and Debra Winger playing a combative mother and daughter who see each other through various ups and downs in love and loss, and most especially through a terminal illness endured by Winger's character. Jack Nicholson deservedly won an Oscar for his supporting role as a free-spirited astronaut who backs away from a romance with MacLaine and then returns in the clutch. As he always does, Brooks keeps things from getting too soapy with his intense concentration on the soulful evolution of his characters. --Tom Keogh
Top Customer Reviews
Everyone comes thru in the end, including the lumpish ex-husband, and Jack Nicholson, playing a free-spirited astronaut who is MacLaine's love interest, deservedly won an Oscar for this performance.
Excellent book by McMurtry; great movie by James L. Brooks.
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.
The mother and daughter act of Aurora (Shirley MacLaine) and Emma (Debra Winger) are at the heart of the story. The mother is consistently over-protective and disappointed in her daughter. Emma is one of the most compassionate human beings in the cinematic world. When Emma ups and marries the wrong guy (Jeff Daniels) there relationship becomes one of the phone lines. Even that doesn't squelch Aurora's power of her daughter. But when Aurora finally dates her free-spirited neighbor (Jack Nicholson), she softens as a human being and backs off of.
The film is quite clever with its characters and dialogue, often right from McMurtry's novel. Brooks works wonders with a dream cast that was often a nightmare. The audio commentary on the DVD offers a very open discussion of the Diva attitudes on the set. And Brooks exposes some other things as well but the commentary is often self-congratulatory. This is a great film in the style of BROADCAST NEWS and AS GOOD AS IT GETS.
The movie is essentially about the relationship between a mother and her daughter but almost comes across as two separate movies because it follows the two women separately for a large part of the movie and then brings them back together at times.
Aurora Greenway (Shirley MacLaine) is Emma Greenway Horton's mother (Debra Winger). Aurora is over-protective and controlling, but Emma eventually finds her way out of her mother's home when she marries Flap Horton (Jeff Daniels). Emma and Flap move away from Aurora so Flap can pursue his career as a professor. Emma, meanwhile, is a stay at home mother and has three kids. While Flap and Emma are away, Aurora, who has constantly had suitors visiting her, finally decides she is going to develop a relationship with her neighbor, Garrett Breedlove (Jack Nicholson), who is a former astronaut and is now a drink-crazed womanizer. As it turns out, Garrett is just the person Aurora needs to come out of her shell and their relationship turns into something more than is expected at the beginning.
While Aurora is finding someone to love, Emma and Flap are doing the same - they just aren't doing it with each other. Both end up having affairs (at least, so we think). After discovering that Flap is becoming involved with a woman, Emma goes to the doctor for a flu shot for her and her daughter and finds out that she has cancer.
Emma ends up dying, Flap goes off with the other woman, and the three kids end up with Aurora back in Texas who is continuing to develop her relationship with the slightly calmed Garrett.
The movie kept my attention throughout though it isn't particularly exciting (except when Garrett is around). What makes the movie so interesting is the characters - which should make most movies interesting. After watching it with some friends, I asked them what they thought and one of them said that they were all really screwed up people. I couldn't help but think that they probably were no more screwed up in their own way than most other people are. I think we are all strange and weird in our own ways. And, even though the characters in this movie might be a bit more extreme than some people, they are still people just trying to find people that love them.
The acting was great throughout - with the exception of some of the child actors and Emma. I think I would have given it a higher rating if I had been more convinced by Debra Winger's character. Perhaps it was the portrayal, or perhaps the portrayal was great and I simply didn't like the character, either way, I think Emma was my least favorite character even though she is the leading character. The worst part about her was her laugh - it drove me nuts. But, for some people that is probably be the best part about the movie.
Overall, the movie really is very well done. The story is simple and plausible and entertaining. It leaves you with the feeling that this really could happen, and, more poignantly, really does happen. People die, people cheat on their spouses, and people are not always nice. Life is like that.