1983 • Terms of Endearment

Terms of Endearment, 1983It seemed to me that Lauren had intentionally been putting Terms of Endearment off for a while. We originally had the DVD from Netflix probably in early May, and it sat around for a month before we finally decided to watch it one night… but it turned out the disc was cracked, so we sent it back to Netflix. We finally got the replacement, and there it sat for another month. Finally, last night, Lauren gave in and decided to watch the movie that everyone had warned her was a huge tear-jerker. And oh, how it was.

Terms of Endearment, not to be confused with Sperms of Endearment as seen on a Simpsons’ theater marquee, was written, directed, and produced by James L. Brooks and featured a dazzling cast of big names. Shirley MacLaine and Debra Winger starred as the tight but quirky mother and daughter combo, Aurora and Emma. We follow the Texans through their lives, from the time Emma was a baby to her final days, and how single mother Aurora was there—or not there—every step of the way.

When Emma gets married to Flap (Jeff Daniels), Aurora doesn’t approve and doesn’t even show up to the wedding. Flap and Emma have babies and move to Des Moines where Flap goes to college. Both Emma and Flap engage in extra-marital affairs, nearly destroying their family. Meanwhile, back in Texas, Aurora engages in a romantic fling with her next-door neighbor, astronaut Garrett Breedlove (Jack Nicholson). Despite Emma and Aurora’s distance apart, they seem to call each other every day and remain extremely close. But what happens when Emma, mother of three, finds out she has malignant tumors? That’s when the tears start to flow—for Lauren, at least, though I also found it very sad.

There were some funny trivial back stories to the production, including MacLaine quitting the film because Nicholson and Winger were such evil pranksters. MacLaine found Winger impossible to work, which may have actually helped with the on-screen chemistry as they were often bickering with each other in the movie. Jack Nicholson was the fourth man in line to play the astronaut role, behind Burt Reynolds, Harrison Ford, and James Garner, but they all turned down the role for various reasons.

I really enjoyed Terms of Endearment. It was definitely unlike any of the previous Best Picture winners. Although Wikipedia describes it was a romantic comedy-drama, I’d say it’s at best 6% comedy and 94% drama. I liked the Emma character with her raspy Texas voice and happy-go-lucky attitude. I wasn’t as much of a fan of the tight-wound Aurora character, so badly in need of a little fun in her life, which Garrett tries to and temporarily provides, but MacLaine played it very well, winning the Oscar for Best Actress. John Lithgow was also good in his role as Emma’s side fling, but I can’t figure out how his tiny role was nominated for an Oscar for Supporting Actor.

But again, good movie all-around. I like watching movies from this time period when I was born. Likely falls into the middle of the pack on my rankings though.

1 Comment

  1. […] night we watched the latest movie in our Best Picture list, 1983′s Terms of Endearment, which I just reviewed over on my Best Picture […]


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