(On Cable TV, May 2019) I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not the target audience for Steel Magnolias—I imagine it being best suited to a cross-generational selection of female viewers, the closer to its southern setting the better. But no matter who you are, the film is a feast of great acting and excellent dialogue dunked in a warm bath of gentle southern-USA atmosphere. I had a lot of fun watching the first two thirds of the film, what with such notables as Dolly Parton, Julia Roberts, Olympia Dukakis, Sally Field, Shirley McLaine and Daryl Hannah at her arguable peak. It’s not an entirely cheerful film (the third act focuses on a character’s death and the other characters’ subsequent mourning) but it’s often very funny—especially once you factor in the combination of gifted actresses biting into theatrical dialogue. The last third of the film will work either better or worse depending on the audiences—while the point of Steel Magnolias is to show how the tightly-knit community reacts to the death of one of their owns, the film does milk those moments as hard as it can, and does feel overly manipulative at times. That’s not enough of a problem to stop recommending the film, though: the quality of the dialogue and the relationship between the characters remains the best reason to see the film, even if you think it won’t appeal to you.
(On Cable TV, February 2017) I recall seeing Nine to Five as a kid, but given that I only remembered the iconic theme song, I will pretend that this was like watching a new film. It certainly feels like a time capsule from the late seventies, with its broad statements about feminism, contemporary fashions and work culture at a pre-computer, barely-photocopier era. Jane Fonda is a bit dull as the intentionally blank heroine, but Lily Tomlin is very good as a cynical office manager, and it’s a treat to see Dolly Parton in her prime as a smarter-than-she-looks secretary. Their story of female empowerment and revenge against a no-good boss (sorry, “sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot”) is good for a few chuckles, especially when the film goes off the reality rails and features three outlandish dream sequences. As for the rest, the film has aged depressingly well: it’s discouraging to realize that much of the feminist content remains effective thirty-five-years later—there’s been progress, but not that much of it, especially in the United States. The theme song hasn’t gone out of style either: “Working nine-to-five/What a way to make a living…”