Sunday, 26 September 2010

Scene On A Sunday, 2:1: Steel Magnolias

Whoa! It’s been so long since the last of these that I think it’s only appropriate for me to legitimately begin a new round of it all. What with crashing computers, summer laziness and whatnot I never came around to getting a plethora of screencaps to perform a screen analysis.

I suppose, in truth, Steel Magnolias is just a mass of Southern clichés. However, that doesn’t stop me from finding it to be a completely charming bit of craziness – with or without its chick flick moniker. (I’m not from anywhere near the south of America, so I can’t say if the clichés are stretched or accurate.) It’s an ensemble cast, and all the women are up to scratch but it’s Sally Field who continually turns in the strongest of performance as M’Lynn. Sally’s name has become somewhat marred, even though she still turns in credible work on Brothers & Sisters but I’m at a loss to why she wasn’t Oscar nominated for her work here (though she did get the Golden Globe nod).

The scene in question occurs nears the end after Shelby’s death – M’Lynn’s daughter. (Er, retrogressive spoiler alert.)
I love that single shot of Sally there lost in thoughts. She and Shelby had their differences like any mother and daughter pair but when the clichéd phrase “mother lioness” comes to mind – Sally’s M’Lynn is a bit of an epitome.

All the women start gathering around...
From Dolly’s jovial hairdresser (and Dolly is quite excellent here).
To the ying and yang pair of Shirley MacLaine and Olympia Dukakis Ouiser and Clairee.
And Daryl Hannah’s nervous Christian.

I can’t give effusive praise to Herbet Ross’s direction, it’s not groundbreaking in the least, but he works well with the usual bits.
The shots of the women congregated look nice in its own rote way.

Truvy: “How you holding up, honey?”
M’Lynn: “I’m fine.”

Clairee: “It was a beautiful service.”
Ouiser: “The flowers were the most beautiful I have ever seen.”
I love the look on Sally’s face as Olympia recites that line, because – really – who cares about the service?

Annelle: “Miss M’ should make you feel a lot better that Shelby is with her King.”

I can never NOT roll my eyes at that line. Seriously? All religion aside, that’s about the worst thing to tell any grieving parent.
Sally’s look of disgust is priceless, she’s so brilliant when she’s being sarcastic.

M’Lynn: “Yes, Annelle, I guess it should.”

Annelle: “We should all be rejoicing.”

M’Lynn: “Well you go on ahead, I’m sorry if I don’t feel like it, I guess I’m a bit selfish. I’d rather have her here.
Annelle: “Ms, M’Lynn. I don’t mean to upset you by saying that.”
Annelle: “It’s just that...when something like this happens I pray very hard to make heads or tails of it, and I think that in Shelby’s case: she just wanted to take of that little baby, and of you...of everybody she knew and her poor little body was just worn out.”
Annelle: It just wouldn’t let her do all the things she wanted to. So she went on to a place where she could be a guardian angel.”
Annelle: “She will always be young...she will always be beautiful.”
Annelle: “And I personally feel much safer knowing that she’s up there on my side.
Annelle: “It may sound real simple and stupid...and maybe I am, but, that’s how I get through things like this.”

Daryl is my least favourite of the film’s main cast. But, perhaps, that’s just because Annelle is just irritating at times. She sells that short monologue well, though (who imagined Annelle would grow up to become this.)

M’Lynn: “Thank you, Annelle. I appreciate that. And it’s a real good idea.”
M’Lynn: “Shelby as you know, wouldn’t want us to get mired down and wallow in this. We should handle it the best way we know how...and get on with it. That’s what my mind says. I wish somebody’d explain to my heart.”

Truvy: “Drum says you never left her side for a second.”

Not to interject, but what is with these names? Drum? Truvy? M’Lynn? I still don’t know what the last one is indicative of.

M’Lynn: “No, I couldn’t leave my Shelby. I just sat there and kept on pushing the way I always have where Shelby’s concerned. I was hoping she’d sit up and argue with me. And finally we realised there was no hope. We turned off the machines.”
I love that even the hard Ouiser is moved by Sally...and really, how could she not be? Sally’s brilliant with bringing on the waterworks.
M’Lynn: “Drum left, he couldn’t take it. Jackson left. I find it amusing. Men are supposed to be made out of steel or something.”
The title of the play/movie is never explained, but we could only infer that in their flowery natural state that the women are ones really made of state.

M’Lynn: “But I just sat there. I just held Shelby’s hand. There was no noise.”
M’Lynn: “No tremble. Just peace.”
M’Lynn: “Oh, God. I a woman, just how lucky I am. I was there when that wonderful creature drifted into my life. And I was there when she drifted out. It was the most precious moment of my life.”
Olympia and Shirley are just perfect together (if Meredith Grey and Cristina Yang grew old, this would be them).

It’s just impressive to see how quickly Sally can change expressions and temperaments without seeming
M’Lynn: “I gotta get back. Has anybody got a mirror?”
Well of course Truvy, the hairdresser, is the one with the mirror.

Truvy: “Does anybody have a mirror? I don’t know how you’re doing on the inside, honey, but your hair’s just holding up beautiful.”
That line just seems inappropriate, but it still makes me chuckle.

M’Lynn: “Shelby was right. This is a brown football helmet.”
That series of shots is another great showcase for Sally, she moves throw the range of emotions so well that you’re right there with her.
Clairee: “Oh honey, are you okay?”
Another silly question that’s always asked at funerals...but it leads into Sally’s looooooooooooooong monologue, and what’s probably the strongest part of the film.
M’Lynn: “I’m fine. I’m fine. I’m fine. I’M FINE!
M’Lynn: “I can jog all the way to Texas and back, but my daughter can’t.”
M’Lynn: “She never could.”

M’Lynn: Oh God, I’m so mad I don’t know what to do. I wanna know why. I wanna know why Shelby’s life is over.”
That woman is ferocious, even in grief.
I can only imagine how difficult is for someone who’s on screen while a character delivers a monologue, in school I hated being on stage during a play when someone else had a monologue. What were you supposed to do? These ladies seem to be doing well enough...
 M’Lynn: “I wanna know how that baby will ever know how wonderful his mother was. Will he ever know what she went through for him?”
 M’Lynn: “Oh, God, I wanna know why!”
M’Lynn: “WHY?! Lord, I wish I could understand.”
I challenge anyone to find a cinematic reaction to death that’s more emotional (or believable) than this. Sally is doing it all on her own really. All Ross has to do is put the camera on, she’s just that good.

M’Lynn: “No, no, no, it’s not supposed to happen this way.”

M’Lynn: “I’m supposed to go first I’ve always been ready to go first.”
M’Lynn: “I don’t think I can take this.”

M’Lynn: “I don’t think I can take this.”
M’Lynn: “I just wanna hit somebody till they feel as bad as I do. I just wanna hit something.”
M’Lynn: “I wanna hit it hard!”
Clairee: “Here! Hit this!

I love the look on Shirley’s face there. She’s like, ‘what the hell?’

Clairee: Go ahead, M’Lynn. Slap her!”

Ouiser: “Are you crazy?

Clairee: “Hit her!”
Ouiser: “Are you high, Clairee?”


Truvy: “Clairee, have you lost your mind?”

Clairee: “We’ll sell T-shirts saying I slapped Ouiser Boudreaux! Hit her!”


Annelle: “Miss Clairee, enough!”
Clairee: “Ouiser, this is your chance to do something for your fellow man.

Clairee: “Knock her lights out!”

Ouiser: “Let go of me!”

Clairee: “M’Lynn you missed the chance of a lifetime.

Clairee: “Half of Chinquapin would give their eyeteeth to take a whack at Ouiser.”

....and the laughter...

Ouiser: “You are a pig from hell!”
A brilliant line delivery there.
And the ladies fall into laughter.
M’Lynn: “Ouiser, don’t leave!”

Clairee: “Ouiser, I was just kidding. Come back!”
She’s turning around to flip them off there...

 Annelle: “That was not a very Christian thing to do.”
Clairee: “Annelle, you gotta lighten up.”
I think it was Heather who said that Steel Magnolias is one of those movies that would take you from tears to laughter in a few moments only, and she’s right. And, it’s all balanced so well that it really is an impressive feat. Perhaps, it’s not the most technically savvy film – but that doesn’t say much, what is? It’s an acting showcase at its best, and no one impresses more than Sally Field.       
Are you a fan of Steel Magnolias? Do you believe the ladies’ chemistry? ...or Sally’s grief?
Season One: Scene On a Sunday


Jess said...

I love Ouiser asking Clairee if she's high. They're perfect!

Fitz said...

It might actually be the most Christian thing to do.

Rachel A. Dozier said...

This scene gets me every time. While Sally Fields may be a jerk in real life, she just comes off as so genuine on screen. This is a great film and play.

Rachel said...

I love this movie too, but I'm with you on Annelle's little speech, mainly because that's how everyone in my family talks when somone dies and it doesn't do a damn thing to console me.

Ginger Ingenue said...

I love STEAL MAGNOLIAS. But as a little girl, I could never understand why my mom cried constantly during that scene. I thought it was funny. Not funny Shelby died. But just funny in general. I'm sure if I watched it now, I'd be a mess. ;)

rtm said...

WOW, you really like this movie Andrew. I've never seen this movie but it looks like too much of a tearjerker for my taste.

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

jess shirley maclaine is comic gold.

fitz HA. you may have a point there.

rachel d. is she really a jerk? but yes she's a good actress.

rachel precisely, it doesn't do a damn thing. annelle really is kind of annoying.

ginger yeah, you probably would be a mess. not that i'd blame you.

ruth this is actually one of the two sad scenes, it's a general comedy for the most part with some brilliant one-liners.