Reel Matt

This blog started as my movie marathon — watching a movie a day for a whole year — and has continued as a place for me to write reviews about movies, TV, and various other items.



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Terms of Endearment

Film #249


Aurora and Emma are mother and daughter who march to different drummers. The movie covers several years of their lives as each finds different reasons to go on living and find joy.

Year 1, Day 249

BEFORE: Ready for the last double-feature for a while? I am. On tap for today are two romantic films, the first of which, Terms of Endearment was originally scheduled during Oscar month. It won five out of its eleven nominations including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actress. So, without further ado, here is Terms of Endearment.

AFTER: Within the first minute I found myself laughing. After the next two minutes passed I found myself dead silent. Terms of Endearment plays a lot with this balanced between light-hearted comedy and a serious drama about issues like marriage, child-raising, and life-threatening illnesses. For most of the film this back and forth made the developing situations in Emma’s (Debra Winger) and Aurora’s (Shirley MacLaine) lives seem fragmented, but by the end, none of that mattered. I just cared for these characters so much the story resolved it’s own problems.

Of note, Terms of Endearment brings to mind my feelings about Life of Pi. During the movie I had a lot of questions as to what was going on and why these things were happening. In Terms of Endearment these questions were more “why’s” than “what’s”. Why does Aurora seemingly hate her daughter (Emma), why does Aurora want the attention of Garrett above others (Jack Nicholson), and why does Emma and Flap’s (Jeff Daniels) marriage start to fall apart so quickly (the how is clearly explained, I’m asking about why does it feel so sudden and unexpected in the film)? Moreso with the last one, but all these questions I feel are the result of the elapsing of time. The film covers a large expanse of time - from Emma’s birth until a few years after her third child - and to do so in just over two hours there’s a lot of temporal experimentation. While it is always clear when a time jump is happening, I feel there are some unintended side effects and these lead to the questions/issues with the story I have.

But as I said before, the end of the film just makes me want to sweep all that under the rug and just remember it all as the perfect lead-up to the ending. Life of Pi was the same way where the last ten minutes of the film just had this overwhelming effect that improved my attitude towards it. No spoilers about what happens or why it’s so powerful, but I think the core of how a film can do this, in both examples, is the characters. Never was I bored or disappointed with the film and how the character development was shown; just slightly confused as to where things were going. But all the while as you sit there watching things happen - Emma and Flip moving to Iowa, Aurora meeting Garrett for the first time, Emma giving birth to another child - you get to really know who these people are in a way more akin to real life than a film. There aren’t really any big “Gotcha!” moments and major changes in story but rather a gradual progression from point A to point B. So, by the end when big things do start to happen, the questions I had still remain but they become less important. I no longer care about why or how, all I care about is what is happening right at this very moment, what is going through these character’s minds, and how these turn of events could be effecting them. It’s such a powerful ending that brings in little tidbits scattered throughout the film all back.

Terms of Endearment is another sleeper hit for me. Yes, it did win a bunch of Oscars and was critically acclaimed, but it’s not one I heard a lot about and for most of the film I thought it would just be another pretty good romantic comedy/drama. But the build-up and the effortless transitions between humor and drama worked well beyond expectations and should be a film you make sure to see.

RATING: 5 out of 5