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USA 1983
Directed by
James L. Brooks
132 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

Terms Of Endearment

Emmy Award winning TV director James L. Brooks who honed his craft with The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970-77) and Taxi (1978-83), burst out of the gate with this his big screen debut which won the Best Director and Best Film Oscars along with Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actress (Shirley MacLaine), and Best Supporting Actor (Jack Nicholson). It tells the story of a grumpy single mother, Aurora Greenway (MacLaine) and her independently-minded daughter (Debra Winger) from the time the latter marries (a young Jeff Daniels) to her death from cancer.

McMurtry is a first class storyteller and it is little surprise that so many of his works from Hud (1963) to Brokeback Mountain (2005) have found their way into film. Terms Of Endearment captures the prickly mother daughter relationship well and gets an extra boost when Jack Nicholson’s lascivious next-door-neighbour arrives to clean out Aurora's pipes and kick-start her stalled heart. For three quarters of its running time this is quite a lot of fun. Then Brooks turns up the sentiment dial to 10 and drowns all one’s sympathy in a slough of tear-jerking pathos.

Although MacLaine, whose career had peaked in the late 1950s and early l60s deserved her Oscar for her convincing performance and she and Nicholson are in every sense a winning pair, that the film beat out Tender Mercies, The Right Stuff and The Dresser for Best Picture and/or Best Director Oscars is dire evidence of the Academy’s populist standards.

FYI: A sequel, also based on a McMurtry novel and also with MacLaine, called The Evening Star was made in 1996 but failed to repeat the earlier film’s commercial and critical success.




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