Synopsis: Aurora and Emma are mother and daughter who march to different drummers. Covering several years of their lives, each finds different reasons to go on living and find joy through humor and strength.
Stars: Shirley MacLaine, Debra Winger, Jack Nicholson, Jeff Daniels, John Lithgow
Director: James L. Brooks
Running Length: 132 minutes
TMMM Score: (9.5/10)
Review: Many movies can be classified as tearjerkers but few earn their stripes with the dignity and humor of Terms of Endearment, James L. Brooks’ Oscar winning dramedy chronicling a tumultuous mother-daughter relationship and the various men in their lives. I return to this film every few years and it manages to always feel fresh and unexpected thanks to its uniformly excellent performances and Brooks’ nigh-perfect script.
What always sets this apart for me is the way the movie lets these big, eccentric characters retain their humanity even when placed in circumstances that challenge them. Based on Larry McMurtry’s novel, Brooks has tightened up the proceedings, added characters, and allowed his actors to own the quirkiness they bring to the table. There’s Winger’s multi-layered daughter, who evolves from a frustrated teen to a giving mother in an unhappy marriage with a philandering husband (Daniels) eventually being distracted by an unwise affair with Lithgow. Meanwhile, McClaine’s Oscar winning role as Winger’s mother takes shape as she battles brutal truths with her daughter while getting involved with an astronaut ladies man (Supporting Oscar winner Nicholson) who moves in next door.
All of these characters could have been overplayed in lesser hands but it works perfectly even today. Nominated for 11 Oscars and winning five (including Best Picture), the film has lost none of it charm or impact as it comes to its conclusion becoming one of the truly certified five hankie tearjerkers. I was surprised how deeply funny the film is and marveling at how honestly it deals with many different kinds of loss – trust me, you’ll be laughing through your tears.