The Tearjerkers

Eighteenyears had a post today about Steel Magnolias. She had watched it again recently and was surprised that her perceptions of the film had changed. The famous scene where Shelby (Julia Roberts), pregnant with a baby (even though doing so greatly jeopardizes her health) tells her mother that she would “…rather have 30 minutes of wonderful than a lifetime of nothing special” reverberates in a different way for her. She particularly notices that the supporting characters don’t really seem to enjoy parenthood.

“What’s interesting is that the older characters seem to present the idea that having children might not be all that special. Ousier (pronounced Weezer and played by Shirley Maclaine) says she’s had the ‘three most ungrateful children’ in the world. Truvy (played by Dolly Parton) says her boy is no-good, and scoffs when M’Lynn tells her that he ‘turned out fine, just a bit scary is all.’ We think that Clairee has kids, but they don’t seem to be around much.”

The kids both took a nap at the same time today, which !!! and I had a ton of laundry to fold, so I decided to watch Steel Magnolias again. I watch it every year, and it’s my go-to tearjerker. The first time I ever saw it I was 16, miserable with the chicken pox and some friends brought it over so we could watch it together. It made a big impression on me.

Shelby is a character who I think is pretty relatable to most women. I love her totally over-the-top wedding scene. (All that crazy pink fabric! Oh, the 80s…). She is strong and independent and is a working woman with a job she loves. But what she wants most is a child. Having a family is so difficult for her to achieve that she *****SPOILER!!!****** dies in the attempt.

Shelby’s blessed with everything a woman would want: beauty, kindness, intelligence and a handsome lawyer who loves her. But, she doesn’t have her health. When I was going through infertility treatments, I understood so well Shelby’s impassioned argument about why she was willing to risk everything to have a child. That’s how I felt, too. I wept during that scene Eighteenyears references so hard in 2006. The 30 minutes, YES!

Now I find myself sympathizing more with M’Lynn, Shelby’s mother. Poor Shelby’s mother! She’s just trying to keep Shelby around. What an impossible situation to be faced with: her daughter doing what she needs to do to make her biggest dream come true, but her mother watching that dream take her child away.

The scene that made me cry today was this one: M’Lynn drives to pick up her grandson right after she watches his mother take her last breath. She’s weeping but then her grandson smiles and toddles towards her and she lifts him up and the complexity and sadness of her emotions are so beautifully expressed as she smiles with tracks of tears streaming down her face.

“Life goes on,” M’Lynn eventually says.

Are there any movies you watch repeatedly, what are they and have your views on the movie changed over the years?

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13 Comments

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13 responses to “The Tearjerkers

  1. I’ll return to comment about movies, but the book that is forever altered for me is Anne of Green Gables. A childhood favorite, the implications of Anne’s orphanhood and subsequent adoption weren’t something I thought much about. During treatment we read it in a book club and wow, I saw so much of that book differently.

    • I love Anne of Green Gables too and haven’t watched it in years. I heard they are making an updated version of it soon, if they haven’t already. That should be interesting.

  2. Would you believe I’ve never seen _Steel Magnolias_? Hmmm … I wonder what S. would say if I added it to our Netflix queue … !

    The only movies I watch repeatedly now are things like _The Sound of Music_ … and I don’t think I’ve changed how I see them much over the years, though I guess I do pay more attention now to the challenges of parenting … I identify less now with the younger characters.

  3. I haven’t watched Steel Magnolias in years. I think I’ll have to set aside Saturday morning for that.

    I used to watch Leaving Las Vegas at least once or twice a month, but I haven’t seen that in years now, either. I think it’s still too soon for that. I could watch the original Parent Trap every day, along with The Little Mermaid. Any musical, really, from Singin’ In the Rain to The Sound of Music to A Chorus Line. It used to just be about the singing and dancing, and still is, some days, but the whole story is more important now.

  4. St. Elsewhere

    I haven’t seen Steel Magnolias…but it now a definite on my to-watch list.

    I was very absorbed by a movie – Evening (don’t read the Wikipedia description of it, it is wrong)…and I am unable to go away from it, if it is on, and I can watch. It does not have an IF angle, but there is unrequited love, an old woman’s memory of her youth, and a beautiful comment on parenting. Priceless!

  5. St. Elsewhere

    Ugh…I guess I must be hungry, given that I am now eating words…

  6. Great post! I love Steal Magnolias too and haven’t watche it in years. One of my childhood friends and I used joke that someday we would be acting like the two old ladies at Shelby’s grave site nudging each other and such, as we were best friends, but also would drive each other crazy as kids.

    Ironically, I watched a movie called Stealing Home again recently (it had been a long time) and started a post (that I havent finsihed yet) about it and why we watch certain movies over and over again. It isn’t one of my all time favs, but I probably watched it at least 20 times and it is very nostalgic for me. Half of those times was likely with the friend I mentioned above. So we must have watched a lot of movies together as tweens/teens. Watching Stealing Home this time around was facinating to me, as I definitely saw some things about it differently. I will hav to finish and share that post one of these days.

  7. I haven’t seen that movie in a long time. I am going to have to rent it. I can’t think of anything specific, but I know I have recently seen movies I haven’t seen in like 15 years and my view is completely different. You pick up on things that you don’t when you are a kid. Thing you have experienced finally make sense. I find it so cool when a movie takes on a whole new shape.
    Oh and I thought I could email you, but I don’t see your email on your blog. If you could shoot me an email and we can talk about BlogHer. ablanket2keep (at) gmail (dot) com.

  8. The Family Stone.
    I cry every single time I watch it. What amazes me is that many people only recall that Sarah Jessica Parker was in it and do not have any idea why it’s a sad movie. How can you not notice the dying of cancer mother of 5?!
    And yes, if before I was crying because they were all losing a mom, this year when I watched it, for the first time I thought of what it’s like to be the mom. And the dad who will stay behind…

  9. Just reading this made me cry! I haven’t seen that movie in years, but I know that scene so well when she goes to pick up Jackson. Ugh. Such a special movie! I should watch it again now that I’m older… and fought like hell to get my kid 😉

    I have watched “Step Mom” over and over again. I love that movie. I haven’t watched it since becoming a mom myself, but I’ve watched it since my sister became a step mom and I cry every time thinking of her. She is the best step mom EVER and loves her daughter as her own – she loves her no differently than she does her other three kids. That is special – and I love that movie for that reason! It always makes me appreciate my sister a little bit more for the mother she is to ALL of her kids.

  10. I haven’t seen SM in forever either- need to rewatch it. And reading the comment above, I love Stepmom too- what a great movie. My very favorite movie is A League of Their Own- I could quote the whole thing, and probably have seen in 100 times 🙂

  11. I have never seen Stepmom. I think it’s time to remedy that…

  12. I think the movie I have seen more than any other is “Cat Ballou” with Jane Fonda. I saw it at the movies when I was a little girl, and many, many times on TV since then. (I asked for & got the DVD last year for Christmas.) When I was a kid, I loved the comedic elements & I particularly remember the barn dance scene (which devolved into fistfights & pie throwing). I also found the villain with the silver nose very scary. As an adult and a Jane Fonda fan, I find it fascinating to watch her at that stage of her career — part sex kitten, as she was then, but flashes of the strong female there too. I also appreciate Lee Marvin’s performance — he deserved the Oscar he won for that role.

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