Oscars Challenge #51: Terms of Endearment (1983) Movie Review
If there's a list of movies, past and present, that will make you feel bad because of the plot and the characters will be in it, this is one of those. Terms of Endearment showcase comedy and heavy drama that deals with family issues, moving on, and acceptance.
I am serious. After you watch this movie, hug your parents.
We follow the story of a widow, Aurora Greenway. Despite having many suitors, she always focuses on her daughter, Emma Greenway. They are close, but often she is too controlling and limits her actions. Even though their relationship is like a roller coaster, they both respect each other. Emma marries a young college professor named Flap despite her mother's objections.
The couple moved to Iowa so Flap could pursue his career as an English professor. They had three children. Although at first, they are happy and content in their new place, they begin to struggle financially. Things go south when she discovers that her husband is cheating on her. Meanwhile, her mother, lonely because her daughter is not close to her, begins a non-commitment relationship with a former astronaut, Garrett Breedlove. Emma maintains her closeness to her mother and becomes her shoulder to lean on. Things get more challenging when Emma finds out she is diagnosed with a terminal disease.
James L. Brooks directs this film. Shirley MacLaine and Debra Winger star as Aurora and Emma, respectively. Jack Nicholson plays the former astronaut, Garrett Breedlove. The two actresses delivered monumental acting performances. Even though Shirley MacLaine grabbed the Best Actress award, I feel like the two of them should share it. Surprisingly, even though Jack Nicholson's character can only be seen in a few sequences, he still won the Best Supporting Actor award. Danny DeVito plays a minor role here as one of Aurora's suitors.
Fresh from the wins of Kramer vs. Kramer (1979) and Ordinary People (1980) a few years back, this film similarly talks about family issues and mental health. Those two topics are common when it comes to heavy drama genres. What I like most about this movie is the story is told from two perspectives. Aurora may have been a selfish mother who demands whatever she wants because she thinks her daughter is her only treasure. However, despite her personality, she loves her deeply and cares for her when the going gets tough. Emma initially had that rebellious attitude and wanted to break away from her mother's clutches. But after she became a mother, she realized it was difficult and understood what her mom thought of her.
That film will not work out without the brilliant performances of the cast. In the ending sequence, when Aurora gets desperate, it just hits hard. Every line that Shirley MacLaine delivered hits home. She is just a wonderful and talented actress.
This film is not perfect. There are a couple of scenes that are slow-paced in the middle.
This movie has a lot of tear-jerker scenes. So if you stumbled upon this, ensure that your tissues are prepared beforehand. There are also funny scenes, especially during the date between Aurora and Garrett. It might be challenging, but I have to say I like this one a lot. Contrary to others that this movie doesn't deserve to win the Best Picture award because of The Right Stuff, The Big Chill, and Tender Mercies, I still think it deserves recognition. Maybe the Academy wanted to pick the most straightforward and relatable nominees.
Often movies with a great set win the Best Picture award, like Around The World in 80 Days (1956) or Titanic (1997). But let's give credit to small-scale films like this one to be more recognized, especially if the story is captivating, down-to-earth, and easily relatable.
The 1980s may have been a decade where biopics won most of the Best Picture awards, so I like that this is like an apple in a basket of oranges.
If you are looking for a movie that combines brilliant acting with a heavy drama, pick this one. You may need to bring out a lot of tissues because this will absolutely make you cry.
A solid 4 out of 5 stars.