When I decided that Terms of Endearment was to be my next Oscar Best Picture Winner, I did not know what type of a film it was. With a character driven plot, Terms of Endearment follows the lives of a mother and daughter that have a strong yet unique bond. While this film was not my favorite, it had some outstanding performances in it that made the film compelling and worth watching.
If there was a single word that could describe this film it would be dysfunctional. When I say dysfunctional I am not referring to the camera shots or direction of the film, I am talking simply about the characters themselves. The film focuses on the mother/daughter duo Aurora Greenway (Shirley MacLaine) and Emma Greenway Horton (Debra Winger). It becomes clear early on that despite thinking about the world in very different ways, Aurora and Emma are best friends. Married to professor Flap Horton (Jeff Daniels), Aurora moves to Des Moines Iowa for Flap to pursue his career. Eventually having three children, Tommy Horton (Troy Bishop), Teddy Horton (Huckleberry Fox) and Melanie Horton (Megan Morris), the two sink into a fairly unhappy marriage. With Flap unable to deal with the pressures of having a family and Emma trying to raise the children on her own both have affairs, Flap with a young college student and Emma with Sam Burns (John Lithgow). Flap job eventually forces them to move to Kearney, Nebraska and their marriage continues to fall into disarray. The Horton’s lives are tragically put into perspective however when Emma finds a cancerous lump under her armpit.
Meanwhile, without her daughter there, Aurora Greenway is forced to live her own life. Still in constant contact with her daughter, Aurora and Emma talk on the phone often. Working her way through a string of interested gentlemen, including Vernon Dahlart (Danny DeVito), Aurora is attracted and drawn to her neighbor, Astronaut Garrett Breedlove (Jack Nicholson). Aurora is a dramatic woman that needs to be in control of every situation while Garrett is a crude, fly by the seat of his pants, drunk who does not like to be tied down. One of the most interesting aspects of the film is watching Aurora and Garrett both adapt and deal with each other’s misgivings to eventually meet each other in the middle to create a workable relationship.
While the directing and script for this film were good, there were two aspects of film that absolutely blew me away. The first was character development. Not only do the characters in this film all have fairly large flaws but the film’s script accentuates and hinges upon these flaws. Throughout the film the characters are really forced to acknowledge and deal with their own flaws as well as many of the other characters’ flaws. It allows the characters to really grow, even if it is for the worse. The other aspect of this film that I found to be amazing was Jack Nicholson. Earning himself a Best Supporting Actor Oscar, Nicholson stole the screen every time he was on it. Playing a misogynistic astronaut that has far outlived his glory days, Nicholson’s character learns to be an actual adult while cultivating a relationship with Aurora.
In my mind, Terms of Endearment is not a Best Picture winning film but when it comes down to it, none of the other Best Picture nominees, the Big Chill, the Right Stuff, Tender Mercies and the Dresser, were any more deserving. The film’s director and writer, James L. Brooks, took home an Oscar for Best Director and Best Writing and Shirley MacLaine earned her own Oscar for Best Actress. I would give this film a 6.5 out of 10. While I thought Jack Nicholson gave an outstanding performance I found the film to be somewhat boring and depressing and most of the characters did not get the final outcome the film seemed to be working towards.
I am a huge Johnny Depp fan. I love the crazy characters he plays. I find him to be engaging and entertaining every time he is on screen and his portrayal of Barnabas Collins is no different. Though Dark Shadows is one of the weaker Tim Burton/ Johnny Depp collaborations, it is a definitely still worth seeing.
A reboot of an old television show, the film follows the story of the illustrious Collins family. Beginning when they came across the seas from England in the 1700’s, the Collins settled down to create a fishing monopoly. As their business grew, the Collins used their wealth to build a mansion and eventually the town of Collinsport. The youngest Collins, Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp) falls in love with a young woman, Josette DuPress (Bella Heathcote), and has a young woman fall in love with him, Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green). Scorned when he is not willing to return her affections, Angelique (who is actually a witch) decides to ruin Barnabas’ life. As if killing his parents and Josette, turning him into a vampire and locking him in a box for 200 years (well actually 196), Angelique lives forever and dedicates her life to destroying the Collins family. When Barnabas is finally freed, Angelique, now Angie, has nearly run the Collins family out of business by taking over the fishing and canning industry in Collinsport. The rest of the film follows Barnabas as he tries to rebuild the reputation of his family and rid himself of Angie’s curse for good.
While the film features a cast of ghastly characters, including a Josette look alike who can see ghosts, the Collins son David (Gulliver McGrath) who can also see ghosts, the drunken doctor Julia Hoffman (Helena Bonham Carter) and the Collins daughter Carolyn Stoddard (Chloe Grace Moretz) who has a secret of her own, it is also hilariously funny. Much of the film’s humor comes from the time period in which it is set: the 1970’s. Barnabas is hilariously forced to acclimate to a world full of lava lamps (which he calls blood chalices), headlights (which he calls the Devil’s eyes) and Chevys (while he is used to horses). Barnabas’ British driven speeches deliver a number of eloquent one liners that necessitate a moment’s thought before the humor actually sinks in. Every member of the Collins family plays their parts perfectly, from the would be hippie Carolyn to Elizabeth Collins Stoddard (Michelle Pfeiffer) who uses her no nonsense attitude to easily accept Barnabas’ vampirism and help him raise the family back to power. Even Willie Loomis, the mansion’s groundskeeper, adds his own brand of dry, drunken humor to the film.
Burton’s own unique direction style is obviously apparent throughout the film. Though the film is set in the 1970’s, Burton still manages to make a number of his locals otherworldly and supernatural. A lot of the film takes place in the giant and beautiful Collins’ mansion but even the town surrounding it seems to come straight from a ghost story. Covering his characters in a pale makeup, with Burton behind the camera it is difficult to decide what drove the film more, the scenery or the characters. My only real complaint about the film was the story itself. Though the movie was just over two hours, I feel as if the story could have used more time or (though I rarely suggest this) maybe even a sequel. The story tried to fit so many supernatural elements into one film that some of the background for the characters got lost in the shuffle. Characters reveal supernatural aspects of themselves at random times, with no clues as to why they are supernatural, which just didn’t sit well with me. This choice is story telling could be because the film is based on an old television show of the same name, a campy show whose style the film may have tried to imitate but I found myself craving a more detailed story. I give the film a 7 out of 10. If you are a Tim Burton fan, especially a Burton Depp collaboration fan, then I would highly recommend it.