Site created 12/15/97.
review added: 8/9/00
Edition - 1989 (2000) - Columbia TriStar
review by Dan Kelly of
The Digital Bits
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras):
Specs and Features
119 mins, PG, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 enhanced,
single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch 1:13:00, in chapter
19), Amaray keep case packaging, theatrical trailers (My
Best Friend's Wedding and Stepmom),
audio commentary by director Herbert Ross, deleted scenes, isolated
film score, In Full Bloom: Remembering
Steel Magnolias featurette, filmographies, animated
film-themed menu screens with sound, production notes, scene access
(28 chapters), languages: English, Spanish and Portuguese (DD 2.0),
subtitles: English, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean and Thai,
If ever there were an
Oprah DVD club, Steel Magnolias
could very well be the inaugural disc. It has everything a great
Oprah film requires - women holding hands, tons of tissue-grabbing,
tear-jerking moments, cute talk with the townsfolk at holiday
gatherings and semi-deep discussions of life. I can even remember an
entire episode of Oprah devoted to Steel
Magnolias. After all, it sported an all-star, mostly
female cast, with the exception of young, up and comer Julia Roberts
in a supporting role as Shelby, the diabetic daughter of M'Lynn
Eatenton (Sally Field). Together, they are a group of friends that
are constantly there for each other to provide moral support and a
shoulder to cry on.
At the time of its release (and to a certain extent even now), the
comparisons to Terms of Endearment
were inevitable. Both are family-centered comedy/dramas, with a
colorful cast anchored by screen legend Shirley MacLaine, and both
have become classics in their own right. But while
Steel Magnolias is an
entertaining film, it doesn't have the strength in writing nor in
direction that made Terms of Endearment
a hit with both critics and audiences.
In the small parish of Chinquapin, LA, everything happens in a hair
salon owned by Truvy (Dolly Parton). There, she dishes up gossip and
hairdos with her friends: the shy, awkward Annelle (Daryl Hannah),
cantankerous Ouiser (Shirley MacLaine), rich chatterbox Clairee
(Olympia Dukasis), bride-to-be Shelby and her mother M'Lynn.
Everything that happens in the movie occurs on special occasions.
Special occasions call for special hair, and at the start of the
film everyone is getting ready for Shelby's marriage to Jackson
(Dylan McDermott). It is in this first scene that we learn that
Shelby is diabetic, and her plans to have kids with Jackson are
dangerous because of the strain child birth would put on her body.
The entire first half of the movie takes place on Shelby's wedding
day. The rest of the film takes place on other holidays and special
events. At the Eatenton family Christmas gathering, M'Lynn learns,
much to her dismay, that Shelby is indeed pregnant. What is good
news to the rest of her friends, is a reason to worry for M'Lynn.
Later on in the film, there is a wedding shower on Halloween, a
birthday party on the Fourth of July, and an Easter anniversary.
This part of the story feels a little forced to me, but the strong
ensemble acting carries it off, with memorable performances by
MacLaine and Dukakis.
For a lot of the cast, Steel Magnolias
was a departure from their normal film fare. Dolly Parton (whom I've
always thought of as a charming, natural actress) was playing a part
that was not written expressly for her. Olympia Dukakis, who many
times plays stuffy New Englanders, played a southern widow. Daryl
Hannah, for a change, was allowed not only to keep her clothing on,
but to actually show some acting chops. All things considered, she's
pretty good in this film, and kudos to director Ross for cutting out
a scene of her in her underwear because it had no purpose in the
film. Of the things I like about this movie, the acting is at the
top of the list and that's what makes repeat viewing a pleasure.
Columbia TriStar has preserved the original aspect ratio of
Steel Magnolias with an
anamorphic treatment on DVD. Video quality is above average, with
most of the drawbacks from the transfer to DVD kept at a minimum.
Digital artifacts are occasionally noticeable, but are never so
prevalent that they become bothersome, and I saw very little edge
enhancement. The source print is fairly free of defects, but it
looks a little on the soft side. Color reproduction is accurate,
with faithful flesh tones and good shadow detail and black level.
The sound, on the other hand, leaves something to be desired. Most
dialogue-driven sound mixes tend to be geared toward the front end
of the sound system, but this Dolby Digital 2.0 track features a
really lethargic mix. Dialogue levels are very subdued, and I had to
compensate by cranking the volume. All this holds true not only on
the English track, but also on the Spanish and Portuguese tracks.
Extra-wise, this is a good, but not a great disc. The commentary by
director Herbert Ross is an average effort. When he actually takes
the time to discuss his movie, it is informative, if a little slow.
The problem is, there are long pauses between his comments. So long,
in fact, that many times I forgot I was even listening to the
commentary. The isolated score is a good option for those who are
interested, but the score is not that memorable a piece of music.
In Full Bloom: Remembering Steel
Magnolias, the half-hour featurette, is good but somewhat
one-sided. We hear quite a bit from the people behind the scenes,
but only from one cast member, Shirley MacLaine. Screenwriter Robert
Harling (whose play of the same name was based loosely on his sister
and mother) has a lot to say, and it's quite evident that
Steel Magnolias is his baby.
He put a lot of energy into the film and served as a sort of
consultant for Ross. The four or five deleted scenes amount to two
minutes of nothing special. Their absence from the film is not
noticed. The remainder of the features - two trailers (the
Steel Magnolias trailer is
conspicuously absent), bios, production notes, and an assortment of
language and subtitle options - are tied together with some really
cheesy menu screens. And I do mean cheesy - music swells, magnolias
dance across the screen, teeth sparkle, and eyes twinkle. Really
On DVD, Steel Magnolias looks
better than it ever has outside of the big screen, and it's got a
fair set of extras. The sound is just a little disappointing, but
that's the only real complaint I have about this DVD. It's always
good to see Sony continuing to put their catalogue titles out on
DVD. If you liked Steel Magnolias,
this disc is well worth the purchase price.