(Air Date: Week Of 12/18/96)
I've been asking around, but I still haven't found any one who was actually dying to see a sequel to Terms of Endearment. Sure, it made the price of Kleenex stock soar when it came out in 1983 and, incidentally, swept the Oscars. But if there was ever a clean cinematic finish, it happened in Terms of Endearment with the death of its spunky heroine, Emma, played by spunky Debra Winger. Sure there were three adorable kids surviving at the end, but they were such little tykes we barely got to know them, and could hardly be expected to care how they turned out. There was the touch and go romance between Aurora, the cantankerous grandmother, played by Shirley Maclaine, and the playboy astronaut, played by Jack Nicholson, but we knew that would never work out. There was a dramatic rise and fall, with tinkly music during the sad scenes that made our tear ducts go on auto pilot, and I experienced the same kind of hollow catharsis as in Love Story.
In The Evening Star, those kids are now young adults, and disappointments to Grandmother Aurora, who raised them. One son works at the Stop and Go, the other one's in the pen, and the girl, delightfully played by screwball Juliette Lewis, is a rebel with an Attitude and a philandering boyfriend reminescent of her father -- can this be inherited?
Emma's best friend Patsy, portrayed with a catty drawl by Miranda Richardson, is now a wealthy divorcee, and she and Aurora are rivals for the kids' affections, and for a young psychologist with an Oedipus complex. Jack Nicholson makes a very brief appearance, like something to freshen the palate in the middle of dinner. Aurora has a maid who's also her best friend, and she provides the major tear duct action for the film.
Well, if Terms of Endearment had one death that made you soak at least three hankies, The Evening Star has three deaths, but you barely moisten even one, despite intermittent interludes where Aurora looks at photos of the dead Emma, and you hear that tinkly music again. The Evening Star is mainly a showcase for Shirley Maclaine's performance as the sarcastic, wisdom-spouting Aurora, with lines like: Everyone needs to experience happiness, even if it doesn't last. Cantankerous and tactless, she has that fabled wealth of strength and humor.
What weakens The Evening Star is its choppy, episodic structure, where one event is haphasardly tacked on to the next, without any buildup of dramatic tension. It's as though no one really wanted to write the screenplay, and a troop of bored writers drew lots for who would write the required scenes. Wait, if they didn't really want to write it, and we didn't really want to see it . . . wait, who's idea was this?
Copyright 1996 Mary Weems
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