Terms of Endearment (1983)

(In French, On Cable TV, May 2017) Get your hankies out, because Terms of Endearment is here to make you sob as hard as you can. The story of a relationship between a mother and her daughter spanning decades, this is the kind of slice-of-life movie where mundane details add up to epochal drama. The weight of the passing years heighten the sweep of the drama, but it’s not all wall-to-wall dourness as the film does reach for comedy under writer/director James L. Brooks. Some of the film’s most memorable moments are very funny, although they do take on a more sombre quality knowing how the film ends. Shirley MacLaine and Debra Winger both turn in best-of-career performances as the mother/daughter duo, with Jack Nicholson, Jeff Daniels, Danny Devito and John Lightgow all delivering good supporting roles along the way. It’s a kind of A-list picture that big studios don’t make anymore (although you’ll find similar material in independent films) and while it still works today, it’s a kind of movie made for a specific audience—I didn’t respond all that deeply to it, but I suspect that’s because I fall outside its target demographic.

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