Directed by: Herbert Ross
Running time: 118 minutes
Theatrical release date: November 15, 1989
Steel Magnolias is an endearing story of friendship, unconditional love and loss. Though its theatrical release was in the late 1980's, the storyline is relevant to any era because the film features a tight-knit group of quintessential women (played by several Academy Award winners and nominees), who gather and gossip in the local beauty shop owned by one of the girls. What American woman can’t relate to that scenario?
Truvy’s is the beauty shop owned by its namesake, Truvy Jones (Dolly Parton) and it is the most memorable location of the movie, which is set in 1980’s Louisiana. Like most local beauty shops, Truvy's also serves as the favorite gathering spot for the film's heroines. It is soon into the movie that we find M’Lynn Eatenton (Sally Field), the overbearing mother to daughter Shelby (Julia Roberts) arriving at Truvy’s to get beauty preparations for Shelby’s wedding, which is to take place that day. Widowed companions Ouiser Boudreaux (Shirley MacLaine) and Clairee Belcher (Olympia Dukakis) are also there getting prepped for the big day as well. Newly-hired stylist, Annelle Dupuy (Daryl Hannah) is on hand to assist Truvy - and she is also mysterious.
Annelle is somewhat of a drifter. She is fresh out of beauty school, has no job experience, no place to call home and no one to call family. Truvy takes a chance on Annelle by giving her a job. Ouiser, who is crude and bold, begins to immediately grill Annelle over her past. Led by Clairee, the others can't fight their curiosity and jump in. Annelle holds up under the intense scrutiny and is initiated into the group.
The months following Shelby’s wedding focus on the myriad of issues and circumstances each of the women are faced with. Shelby announces her pregnancy (not necessarily good news), Annelle becomes a newlywed and devout Christian, and Truvy is wrestling with a depressed husband who is underwhelmed with life. Ouiser allows someone to crack her tough exterior and Clairee is famously reaping the rewards of being her deceased millionaire husband’s heir. All the while, the Eatentons must face the dire consequences of Shelby's pregnancy.
The male supporting cast is just that, a supporting cast. Steel Magnolias is dominated by female roles and female issues. Even so, some of the most credible male Hollywood actors were excellently cast, including Tom Skerritt (Drum Eatenton), Dylan McDermott (Jackson Latcherie) and Sam Shepard (Spud Jones).
Steel Magnolias is an American classic film. The script is sharply written and the acting is world-class. The movie provides uproarious laughter in the midst of pain; sometimes unbearable, excruciating pain and proves in the end that life goes on and true friendship that is constant is as beautiful as a magnolia and tough as steel.
*I viewed Steel Magnolias from my personal DVD collection.