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  • It's often a strange experience to revisit a film that made a big splash decades earlier. I remember enjoying it enormously and enjoyed it enormously again last night but the reasons for the enjoyment have changed. The film as a film has remained solidly planted in 1983, specially the score but what will lead this film into the forever ever are the writing of course and the performances. Shirley MacLaine's truthfulness warts an all is a work of art. She is present one hundred per cent of the time and let's remember, Shirley MacLaine didn't start as an actress, she was a dancer who became a star thanks to a twist of fate and she has remained there as an example of honesty and courage ever since. Her Aurora in Terms Of Endearment is a monumental treat. Debra Winger's performance is a revolution of sorts. Every detail confirms and/or challenges our feelings for her but she's never less that one hundred per cent truthful. It's impossible not to love her even if she doesn't make it easy for you. Jack Nicholson is a terrific interference and every one of his moments have a pleasure of their own. So, a 35 year old movie with a teenager's heart.
  • I've heard many good things about James L. Brooks's 'Terms of Endearment' and finally I decided to give it ago. Honestly speaking I was expecting a typical melodramatic tearjerker that's sole aim is to emotionally manipulate the viewer. I was wrong. 'Terms of Endearment' is a slice of life that centres around a mother, her daughter and their respective lives. The film looks very authentic. The sets, makeup, costumes and art direction look genuine.

    This is very much a character driven film. The dialogues are full of humour and wit but what's also striking is how deeply layered the words are. While the visuals are quite simplistic it's the characters that shine especially through the actors' natural performances. Their excellent non-verbal gestures, spot on line delivery and restrained performances are superb.

    A sassy Shirley Maclaine and bubbly Debra Winger are spellbinding. Both actresses beautifully carry the film and they are brilliantly supported by fine actors like Danny DeVito, Jack Nicholson, John Lithgow and Jeff Daniels.

    What particularly appealed to me about 'Terms of Endearment' is the depiction of the mother-daughter relationship and the dynamic of it. It definitely has its ups and downs and it does not involve the use of clichéd lines like 'I love you' etc but at the same time the unconditional love between them is wonderfully conveyed.
  • MJJLWolf728 October 2004
    Wow was my first reaction to seeing the film back in February 2003. I had bought it on a whim and watched it one night when I was bored. The rest is history. Terms remains one of my favorite films and I really can't say why. Reputation has made this out to be "the ultimate chick flick" upon which every other tear-jerker is judged. But it's definitely more of a character study than a weepy mushy movie. In fact, it's anything but mushy. Where it could of been over-sentimental, it was poignant. Where it could of been boring, it was insightful. And where it could of been corny, it was tongue-in-cheek.

    Shirley MacLaine and Debra Winger give career performances as mother and daughter. Both characters are polar opposites and in real life the actresses despised each other, but on screen their chemistry sizzles. Jack Nicholson is his usual suave self and John Lithgow is perfect as the wimpy banker. Danny Devito also has a quirky cameo.

    James L. Brooks is definitely an "actor's director". To him, the performances are clearly more important than set pieces or flashy camera work. Each of the three main performances are brilliant (especially MacLaine's). It has been decades since a movie about illness has been made like this that is so achingly real. Two scenes to look for: Aurora walking across a seedy hotel (heat-breaking) and Emma telling her mother that she's pregnant (hilarious).

    Terms of Endearment is a triumph!
  • The shifty, funny/serious tone of "Terms Of Endearment" caught a lot of people off guard in 1983 and word-of-mouth about it being a seriously good tearjerker/comedy was strong (opening near Christmas probably didn't hurt it come Oscar time either!). But since then, TV sitcoms have been mining this kind of flippant, edgy, raw sense of dynamics ("Roseanne" comes to mind), and "Terms" doesn't seem as fresh. Watching it again the other night, I couldn't help feeling some of the juice was missing, or that Shirley MacLaine's Aurora Greenway was actually more of an irritant than a sympathetic harridan. But on closer inspection, the lives of these characters are quite endearing, and the tender music on the soundtrack always underlines a poignant scene at just the right moment. Vivid Debra Winger is incredible as MacLaine's daughter, as are John Lithgow, Jeff Daniels, Jack Nicholson and, in a small but telling part, Danny DeVito. As for MacLaine, I think she makes a few missteps in her characterization, and I didn't like the scene where she leaves her own birthday party in a huff and finds herself at Nicholson's door--it feels put on--or her famous scene with Jack driving on the beach, which is highly improbable. However, her determined will and loving possessiveness/detachment towards her daughter makes her a complicated and colorful bundle of nerves. The picture is flawed, yet has scenes of worth and love, many memorable lines of dialogue, and shows a real skill for balancing different moods. *** from ****
  • A well-observed, well-made drama (with occasional comedic moments), that may not be exactly "high art" (it's neither profound nor original), but DOES feature some great acting and manages to pull you in.

    Debra Winger gives an extraordinary performance; she has a naturalness and expressiveness that you rarely see on the screen. When her character is happy, her whole face brightens up and her joy becomes infectious; when she's sad or confused or embarrassed, the emotions come across strongly, although she never goes over the top. Considering that she lost the Oscar to her co-star, Shirley MacLaine, who is reasonably good but far more one-note, I'd say we had a major Academy Award injustice there. Jack Nicholson is fun to watch and has some amusing lines, and most supporting roles, like those played by John Lithgow and Danny De Vito, are also first-rate and completely believable.

    So overall it's a good film, directed almost flawlessly, although in the final 20 minutes it needlessly wallows in melodrama. (***)
  • TERMS OF ENDEARMENT is an undeniably gripping and emotional film experience that will have you rolling on the floor during one scene and weeping uncontrollably during the next. This film follows the complicated relationship between an icy, Texan widow named Aurora Greenway (Shirley MacLaine)and her slightly-off-the-wall daughter, Emma (Debra Winger), who at the beginning of the film is marrying a man named Flap Horton (Jeff Daniels), whom her mother clearly hates, seemingly just to get away from her. The film follows Emma's marriage through three children, infidelity, and unexpected tragedy but it never lets go of the unspoken bond between Aurora and Emma...a bond so strong that it transcends telephone lines, geography, and even dialogue at times...there are moments in the story where you see Aurora and Emma communicate without saying a word to each other. Writer-director James L. Brooks won a pair of Oscars for writing and directing this funny and heartbreaking story that stretches over a long period of time but never fails to hold interest and trust me, the last 20-30 minutes of this film will have you weeping. Shirley MacLaine finally won her long-overdue Best Actress Oscar for her controlled performance as Aurora and Jack Nicholson won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his performance as a retired astronaut who moves in next door to Aurora after Emma moves out and begins a hilarious and touching relationship with Aurora. Debra Winger is explosive and unpredictable as Emma and Jeff Daniels is fully invested in the unsympathetic role of Flap. A truly unique motion picture experience that will leave you limp.
  • Exactly how in the world did I never see this movie before? I rented it on DVD the other night because I heard it was good, but I didn't expect it to be as good as it was. Incredible story, such powerful and passionate acting, it's just such a great film.

    I don't think I need to say anything about the acting in it, if you've seen Terms of Endearment you know that Shirley MacLaine, Debra Winger, and Jack Nicholson bring their characters to a life rarely seen in movies. I just can't get over how great this movie was. The story is so good, it's so funny and at times among some of the saddest moments I've ever seen portrayed in the movies. I don't want to go any further for fear that I might spoil it for those who haven't seen this incredible story about life and love and laughter among family. Oh, and if you haven't seen one of the greatest movies ever made, go do so now.

    Wrapping up, if you can't tell I loved Terms of Enderament. I guess I had always stayed away from it because it seemed like THE chick flick, but it's not. It's such a great story, great acting, everything of a great movie. 10 out of 10.
  • What can I say about this film other than it is, in my opinion flawless. Every performance, every character, every scene... Debra Winger should have shared the Oscar with Shirley MacLaine. Few movies can make you laugh and cry OVER and OVER again, but this one does it for me. Even when I catch a scene on cable, I find myself drawn in emotionally and grabbing for my box of tissues. The mother-daughter relationship is so true-to-life and the chemistry between Debra and Shirley and Shirley and Jack is palpable. It is one of the greatest films ever made and should be required viewing for all mothers and daughters. This is an AMAZING and moving film!
  • After looking forward to seeing this film for many years, I finally have watched it, and was left a little disappointed. Don't get me wrong, it's a good movie, but I expected so very much more. I found the plot to be rather thin for a movie this long, and after some thought, I'd have to say that the script was average at best. With a weaker cast, I suspect that I wouldn't have even liked it. Fortunately, this film is blessed with a spectacular cast, and this film deservedly received Oscar recognition in the acting categories. It just didn't deserve the best picture Oscar that it also won.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    After the late 60's, early 70's, when movies began to circulate as news and talk show events, we the public began to believe we were to leave the theater having gotten (or not) the message. Such was for better or worse. Great movies like BONNIE & CLYDE, MIDNIGHT COWBOY and NETWORK were fussed, discussed, etc., and educated and entertained us with varying points of view (if no more through water cooler encounters). I may be naive but was it THEN that it became fun to discuss favorite movies, much like books had so been? SUPPORT: Siskel & Ebert's AT THE MOVIES began to appear on PBS in the late 70's.

    The blowback was a series of shallow - if mildly clever - movies that either the new industry and/or the media spun to we the public as "art". Hence TERMS OF ENDEARMENT, DRIVING MISS DAISY, MOONSTRUCK, and more recently Shakespeare IN LOVE, etc. I suggest that films of this caliber, not necessarily terrible, never won Oscars in the 40's, 50's or 60's.

    The characters in TOE are inarticulate, impatient and shallow people. TOE might have been good if such were the intended message. The sentiments of the movie are incredibly contrived; e.g., we are told zero of the substance of Flab's affairs though Emma's affair is, of course, justified, authentic, etc. I sum up McClain's Character in one word: shrill. I also dare anyone to create a more unashamed melodramatic ending. After watching this flick I walked out of the cinema in Topeka, KS in 1983 not giving a rat's ass about any of the folk or sentiments I'd just seen. Blame it on me being Roman Catholic but the only events, people, circumstances, etc., worthy of concern in TOE were Flap and Emma's children, to which NO attention was paid.

    I'm going to sound like a snob now. Here's the substance of the personal comments I heard and still hear when I inquire about TOE: "It was so good", "It was so sad.", "It was soooo good!", "It was sooo moving.", "It was just like real life.", "I can't believe she died.", "You know my sister just died." You get the picture.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This movie came out before I was born, but I finally caught it on TV last night and couldn't believe THIS won the Oscar!! I'm usually the biggest sap there is, I love sentimental movies but this movie made me HATE every character. Where is the development of the relationships between mother and daughter? We meet Aurora as a very overprotective, neurotic mother, and before we know it, the daughter is getting married to...someone. And the mother doesn't like him....why? Apparently, he's an unmotivated louse but the movie never lets us get to KNOW Flap. We see the couple become parents and struggle and fight, for some reason. i still don't know why i'm supposed to care about these people, but then we learn the husband is a cheater...maybe. So what does Emma do? Why, have her own affair, of course! Except, um, that relationship comes out of the blue as well. this guy pops out of nowhere and offers to pay for her groceries, and in the next scene she's going off to have sex with him? I couldn't believe what I was watching. Then, when Emma SEES Flip with another woman, she becomes enraged!! Because, HE shouldn't be potentially cheating on her!! Poor Emma...she then goes off with her supposed best friend (who we only saw in one scene in the beginning of the movie) but, decides to go home and uproot her kids and stay with her husband....because that makes sense. then, the tears come...Emma has cancer!! but it is the shortest, most unemotional illness i've ever seen in a movie. Her "best friend" is there for her, but only offers to take care of the daughter, not the two older sons. So the natural decision Emma makes is to take her children away from their FATHER and give them to her mother. Because that makes sense. I barely noticed when she died, until Aurora starts crying. I couldn't believe I spent two hours watching this people, and didn't care about them at all. How could I, when the movie never lets the audience gets to know these people? Classic case of "telling", not "showing" us these people. Absolutely ridiculous movie that is truly one of the worst I have ever seen.
  • Life is a gap between what we expect to happen and what really occurs. Aurora doesn't accept the gap and she closes herself in her "daughter & home" micro-world. Life turns up to be more cruel to her than the average, but she proves to be ready and faces all obstacles that come with outstanding integrity and brave. So, accept the gap but bé ready. Memmorable Shirley MacLaine in a universal classic movie.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I am a heterosexual, red-blooded woman who hates "Terms of Endearment". There, I said it, and I don't care who knows. "Terms of Endearment" is one of those insufferable movies aimed for women, even though it is clearly written by men who clearly don't know anything about real women. It's also a disjointed, plot less, excruciatingly dull story with some of the most poorly written characters to ever disgrace the screen.

    I didn't know which female protagonist I found more insufferable: Aurora (Shirley McClaine), an overbearing mother who clings to her daughter Emma (Debra Winger) like a leach but doesn't appear to actually love her. Aurora is one of those people who refuse to let go and let God, as evidenced where she happily wakes her sleeping baby daughter up because she's convinced that Emma has suffered "crib death". Emma is so sick of her mother's nagging ways, she marries the first loser who shows interest, much to her mother's chagrin ("You are not special enough to overcome a bad marriage," Aurora bluntly tells her).

    Then there's Emma herself, who I desperately wanted to root for, having an overprotective mom myself. Emma could have been written with a certain amount of dignity, passion, and endearing insecurities and intelligence that emerge in spite of Aurora's crappy parenting. Instead, Emma is an immature, petulant, flighty ninny who goes from having a backbone of steel one moment to being a complete pushover the next. She firmly calls her ne'er-do-well husband Flap (Jeff Daniels) on his infidelity, and yet stays with the cheating bastard for no clear reason whatsoever. Not to mention Winger plays Emma the way one would a mentally unstable 3-year-old and who sounds she doing the world's worst Joan Cusack impression. I got the feeling her children would be like the type of kids who have to raise and clean up after their alcoholic parents.

    I knew something was wrong when the only character I even remotely liked was Jack Nicholson's aging womanizer character. Considering that I don't even like Jack Nicholson, that's really something.

    Worst of all, "Terms of Endearment" is responsible for starting the trend of manipulative tearjerkers that involve families coming closer because of death ("Stepmom", "The Family Stone", "One True Thing"). Not only is it reprehensible to treat death so lightly, but it is unfair to the audience. It's as if filmmakers are punishing them for not being emotionally invested enough in the characters by creating latent feelings of guilt by killing them off. And it's always with Hollywood Cancer, the type of cancer where vomiting and chemotherapy somehow never come into play.

    I have nothing against chick flicks, I really don't. Just this one.
  • taylork177623 March 2013
    Terms of Endearment stands the test of time. This film was released in 1983 and is defiantly a classic. Shirley MacLaine as Aurora Greenway and Debra Winger as Emma Horton are two of the best actresses of this generation. Not to mention, Jack Nicholson as the "Astronaut" Garrett Breedlove, his characters are always memorable no matter how big or small his role in a film.

    This film is about the lifelong relationship between a daughter, Emma, her slightly neurotic mother, Aurora and the men in their lives. From the beginning of the film you see Aurora's dependence on Emma, even though Aurora is slightly cold towards her at first. You also see that Emma, as a daughter, doesn't care, she loves her mother unconditionally for who she is, as a child does. The film goes on to tell a realistic tale about how life is funny, exciting, disappointing and just plain sad.

    Very few films have the ability to tell such a heart warming yet heart wrenching tale so realistically. The director's focus in this film is on the emotional effect, he wants to make you feel as if you are living life with these women. The use of natural lighting and the use of a subjective view point keep you sitting next to these woman as they experience dating "the astronaut" and having children with a spouse who is not always there for you.

    I have to say my favorite part of the film was being transported back in time to the place where I grew up. A place of Laura Ashley furniture and phones that had a cords. The setting to this movie was so authentic that it made me wish for a simpler time before all the technology came along and children used to play outside. You really do feel that you are widowed housewife in Texas, trying to figure out that "astronaut" next door and what you may want from him. Maybe you're also the mother of three trying to figure out where your husband is; of course he is probably trying to figure out where you are.

    One of the nicest things in life is being able to share your whole self with someone who will love you anyway. That is what this story conveys. It may not always be happy and rosy, but it is funny and real. It reminds me of the movie Steel Magnolias which Shirley MacLaine also does a terrific job. This is a must see movie for anyone.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I never really got the "Oscar quality" to this film when it was first released and certainly don't get it now. Nicholson's part is the same sly cad he's played many times before, only phoned-in. Shirley MacLaine plays a brittle, over controlled (and controlling) version of the ditzy, oversexed characters she usually plays. Jeff Daniels is completely unbelievable as an academic (I used to be one). He doesn't even rate as a marginally employed academic although vapid guys like his characters often are the ones who wind up having affairs with the coeds. The accents are forced (like Winger, I'm a Clevelander and couldn't do Texas either). The cancer ending is forced and overwrought. I used to work with cancer patients and this film is an insult to them and their families. The performances lack depth and James Brooks clearly was better for television than for a film like this. I never read McMurtry's story, so I don't know how faithful it is. I hope the story isn't as gassy and predictable as the film.
  • Qanqor27 August 2006
    Warning: Spoilers
    OK, I had low expectations when I saw this film; I didn't know much about it, but I had a sense it was going to be a "chick-flick". But since I'm determined to see every Best Picture film, I had to see this one. And since I was going to see it, I tried to start with an open mind.

    Well, it was worse than I expected. I can't quite rate it as "awful", because it did have a good cast, and I thought the performances were pretty good. And the story actually had me interested... for a while. My complaint is this: after setting up all these interesting dynamics and tensions between the characters, I was interested to see how it would all resolve. And the resolution? Well, here's the spoiler: the central character gets cancer and dies. That's it. Cheap, trite Hollywood cop-out. That's basically NO resolution. There never really IS any resolution of: 1) the mother and Jack Nicholson, 2) the older son's anger at his mother, 3) Emma's TOTAL (and totally annoying) hypocrisy about infidelity (and notice how, after having given the husband this sanctimonious sermon about how he had to come clean with her, she later TOTALLY dodges coming clean with him. Ultra-hypocrite), 4) The hatred between the mother and the husband. Because everything just gets pushed aside once Cancer comes into the story. By that point, it just becomes heavy-handed and obvious. Feh.
  • TOMASBBloodhound12 February 2011
    Warning: Spoilers
    This is one of those films not made for me, yet since it appears on my television now and then, I feel compelled to comment on it. Terms of Endearment is basically a big, glossy soap opera with a strong cast and clichéd script. This production doesn't disguise the fact that it is exactly that. The central character is an overbearing and domineering matriarch played by Shirley McLaine, and the story deals with her daughter's problems and her own awkward relationship with the astronaut next door. Yep, you heard that right. Jack Nicholson plays an astronaut living next door in her Houston neighborhood. His name.... (please hold your laughter) Garret Breedlove! What a name! What a guy! Of course he is this womanizing loner when he isn't out in space. Do you think he and Shirley will be able to find common ground?? It really doesn't matter since the more interesting parts deal with the daughter (Debra Winger) and her disastrous marriage to a conniving English professor (Jeff Daniels). The marriage is a joke from the start, and things only get worse for Winger as she later develops a Hollywood-type cancer later that we learn little about. All we know is that the ladies in the audience better get their tissues ready. There seems no way for her to be cured. At least she gets to see New York for a few days before the cancer finishes her off.

    Not a lot more to say about it. This was originally based on a novel by Larry McMurtry, but there likely isn't a lot of his original ideas left in this script. Apparently the Nicholson character wasn't even in his book! Could it be that an astronaut was added to sponge off the popularity of The Right Stuff which also came out that year and was also nominated for an Oscar?? Hmmmm. Anyway, the acting is generally good. Nicholson adds testosterone to the estrogen-rich script, even though his character seems contrived. Jeff Daniels plays a paper scarecrow character, but he does what he can with it. Winger is pretty good. McLaine is over-the-top and maybe thats what won her the Oscar. She's the type of person in real life that you could maybe stand to be around for oh... five minutes at a time. Look for John Lithgow and Danny Devito in small and amusing cameos. Some of this was filmed around my old college in Lincoln, so that's interesting enough. The scene where Winger confronts Daniels while he's talking to a mistress with their baby strapped to his chest was filmed right in the middle of campus. Winger was also romantically involved with our governor Bob Kerrey at the time. Other than these little trivial facts, there isn't a lot more of interest here. At least this film cleaned up at Oscar time, so the people involved can be proud of that. Tender Mercies would seem a more deserving best picture, though. 5 of 10 stars.

    The Hound.
  • Sometimes, I surprise myself by being sad during a happy family occasion like a wedding or a birthday party, when it makes me realize how old someone who's very dear to me is getting, or how fast life can go. And some other times, as we're mourning the passing of a beloved family member, I find myself sitting at a table, laughing at the jokes of my uncle, or remembering some funny anecdotes involving the one who's not with us anymore. Go figure why, but we humans have this strange tendency to lean over a feeling that is opposite to the situation we endure, like a sort of defensive reaction. Happiness reminds us how we must seize the day, and death how great it is to live.

    So that's it, we laugh when we should be sad and cry when we should laugh. Actually, life teaches us that there's no 'should' when it comes to feelings, and its beauty is to make us swing back and forth between happy and sad memories. And to a certain extent, faithful to this very comedic aspect that can't go without a few tears, "Terms of Endearment" embodies the passing of life as this big joke with a sad punch line: we all laugh, have great time, but every once in a while, a sad event comes to remind us what is waiting for us. It follows a streak of successful Best Picture winning family dramas, such as "Kramer vs. Kramer" and "Ordinary People", but "Terms of Endearment" is slightly superior in the way it dares to approach life with an intelligent mix of detachment and irony but never without a profound and inspiring humanism.

    Still, what a strange film! No wait, I shouldn't even use the word 'film' because by no chances, does it try to exploit some cinematic conventions in order to extract the right feelings from its audience. Albert Brooks not only trusts our intelligence but also our patience as the story plunges us in the world of Aurora and Emma, Shirley MecLaine and Debra Winger, mother and daughter. I say 'strange' film because it has the curious feel of a TV movie without the archetypes of a vulgar soap opera, it's made with a modest tone of pastel colors and following an episodic structure, like so many slices of people's lives, people no worse or better than you and I, but the flow is so fluid and perfect that we let ourselves guided by the story, never really expecting for something to happen, we're just put here as witnesses of a story, which exemplifies our own vision of life.

    And that's the remarkable exploit of the film, the key that forged its success. "Terms of Endearment", which is unlike any film made before, was one of the highest grossing of 1983 and although I found "The Right Stuff" to be a much more extraordinary experience (and most deserving of the Best Picture award), "Terms of Endearment" possesses an endearing quality, which relies on its faithful approach to life, something made of laughs, anger, sadness and fears, simply put the four main emotions that drive our feelings. "Terms of Endearment" finds the perfect tone and balance between laughs and sadness, comic and pathos. In a way, the film can remind of "Love Story" without an hyperbolic classicism that could have ruined it.

    Emma the daughter, has this burning passion in her heart just like Ali McGraw's character and her mother works as the total opposite, she seems cold and distant, criticizing all her daughter's choices, above them all the decision to marry a teacher named Flap (Jeff Daniels). But Emma never decides, she just lives while Aurora uses her maturity and status as a courted widow to better not to look at her own issues. The interactions between Emma and Aurora seems so genuine that I wondered if the two actresses were really mother and daughter. You could tell that these two women were the best friends in the world, with this unique complicity that couldn't only be translated into awkward reactions. One of the biggest issues that undermine the characters' interactions is the impossible communication of true feelings and the way it's handled provides the comedic spice of the film.

    At a pivotal moment, Aurora finally decides to invite Garrett Breedlove, the ex-astronaut, neighbor since years and infamous for his lust for younger women, just to see her 'Renoir', referring to a very precious painting -a second reading at these lines makes the whole situation subtly hilarious. And not only this role was so tailor-made for Nicholson that it earned him his second Oscar win, but Mac Laine is the perfect match for him, and Brooks knew how to build a believable chemistry between them. At one point, Garrett makes a whole rhapsody about the way he feels things are getting too serious for his taste, to be interrupted by Aurora's reactions, it's funny but it also shows that not only she's no fool, but she doesn't even feel hurt. The film avoids two opposite clichés, turning them into derision to better show the futility of all that stuff. Another crucial scene is Emma's monologue in New York City on the way she feels about people's problems, an extraordinary moment I don't want to spoil.

    The film evolves beautifully with a last act that is forever rooted in our memories, thanks to the remarkable performances of both Debra Winger and Shirley MacLaine, surrounded by great supporting performances. The film doesn't feature iconic moments, isn't renowned for a particular quote, but it has a level of emotionality that has often been copied but never equaled. And to give you an idea if you haven't seen it yet, just listen to Michael Gore's magnificent theme and it will give you an idea.
  • Every so often I go back and watch this movie again to confirm the awful truth: I just do not respond to it in any way except a mild revulsion. McMurtry, like some contemporary novelists (like, say Anne Tyler), has a bad habit of equating adultery with liberation and adolescent behavior to la dolce vita. On occasion, the story can still work (THE LAST PICTURE SHOW, or THE ACCIDENTAL TOURIST, in Tyler's case), but mainly it's just a bunch of characters, desperate and floundering. (Albert Brooks notes in the far superior BROADCAST NEWS, "Wouldn't it be nice if neediness and insecurity were sexy?"*) The characters in this movie are uncommitted and insecure, but not in a way that really lets me in. And by the time the cancer runs its course, I've felt not even mawkishly manipulated -- that's how uninvolved these characters leave me (and each of these actors have, I think, been just great elsewhere).

    Boy, I admire James Brooks, and he tends to give us great, smart, witty entertainment. But not here, I'm afraid.

    *I can't say this is quoted verbatim.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    A movie's opening scenes are often its most telling and important, and so it was with Terms of Endearment. The first few scenes of James L. Brooks' family drama are probably the best in the film. A widow who wants badly for her daughter to need her for comfort accepts her daughter's invitation to share her bed, because the daughter knows who is really in need. The sharing of the bed really establishes the relationships between Emma and her mother Aurora early on, which is vital because that's the focus of the entire movie. For every scene in which Aurora is interfering or disapproving, we can remember the very first scene where Aurora was so desperately protective of her daughter that she would wake her up to ensure she was still alive.

    Shirley Maclaine is a delight to watch in this movie, especially in the opening and closing moments of the film. An unconscious smile comes over Shirley's face when her daughter fights with the husband she so strongly disapproves of. A man familiarly lays his hand on her and she looks at him with pointed indignation of someone whose been through this far too many times. She is sassy but deeply loving of her daughter Emma, which becomes a core of the movie. Towards the middle of the film, Aurora enters a forgettable and slightly forced romance with the aptly named Garrett Breedlove (Nicholson), which sidelines a lot of Maclaine's talent. Nicholson is a master class actor, but this is definitely not one of the best performances on his resume.

    Emma, also played unforgettably by Debra Winger, was just as mesmerising as Maclaine. She is utterly charming and shares great chemistry with her husband, mother and children. Winger (along with Jeff Daniels and director James L. Brooks) is so effective that the mere mention of her mother can kill the mood in a moment, which is as authentic as real life can be.

    Throughout the film, Emma's marriage with Flap falls apart because she suspects he is having an affair, so she jumps along with Sam (a performance that John Lithgow somehow got an Oscar nomination for). This is about where the film lost me, because even when Flap's infidelity is confirmed, I could hardly sympathise or support her because I knew she cheated on him first. However, Lithgow and Winger have one of my favourite scenes in the film - each tries to hold the other's hand and both miss by a few seconds as the other doesn't notice. Its beautifully awkward.

    Towards the end, Terms of Endearment takes is famous turn for the tissues as Emma is diagnosed with terminal cancer. James L. Brooks is at the top of his game in creating beautiful, affecting moments, fully and ably supported by Winger and Maclaine. Shirley Maclaine wins the Oscar in a single scene where she shrieks for someone to manage her daughter's pain. Winger (and the actors playing her children, especially Huckleberry Fox) delivers one of the saddest movie farewells I have ever seen. You have to be made of stone not to be affected by young Fox's tears as he hugs his mother goodbye.

    James L. Brooks' script has some great moments of comedy and even more of drama. For example, see where Emma's friend Patsy is trying to get around talking about cancer. Emma directly says to Patsy "Its OK to talk about the cancer" and then Brooks cuts to a new friend saying almost verbatim "so Patsy says you have cancer!" as if it were a new fishbowl or garage door mechanism. The reaction of Patsy (to spit out her food in shock) completely mirrored my own. Brooks is also masterful at directing such scenes, but throughout the film I couldn't shake the feeling that most of the scenes were strung together without making a cohesive narrative. I also found Patsy's attempt to adopt just Emma's daughter to be a poorly chosen subplot towards the end, especially where Patsy tearfully wishes she could take the little girl away. Not tasteful or effective.

    But for the most part, Terms of Endearment sets out to tell a beautiful small scale family story, and it does it remarkably well. As I said, you'd have to be made of stone not to be affected by the end.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This was easily the worst movie I've ever seen in my entire life... wow. It was bad. I resent movies that try so desperately to make people cry; they tried way to hard. I honestly could tell that she was going to die from the beginning- I heard it was a tear-jerker, and the outcome was obvious.The speech she made before dying seemed like it was trying way to hard to make the audience bawl. I must say though, I liked Nicholson's character- he was the only thing that made watching it bearable- the comical sleaziness he exuded made the ordeal somewhat worthwhile. This movie is good only if you like the heart-wrenching, tear-jerking overwrought type. I also enjoyed MacLaine's character in her dealings with Nicholson... Basically, the actors were good, but the script was not my favorite.
  • TERMS OF ENDEARMENT (1983) **** Shirley MacLaine, Jack Nicholson, Debra Winger, Jeff Daniels, John Lithgow, Danny De Vito. Wonderful serio-comedy about a strong-willed and independent woman (MacLaine in top form) and her only daughter a strong, yet indifferent and directionless free-spirit (Winger, nominated for Best Actress, excellent) with a penchant for a husband with a straying soul (Daniels also great). Winner of 5 Oscars including Best Actress (MacLaine), Supporting Actor (Nicholson in a gleefully unkempt performance and the film's stranglehold on having a good time), Screenplay (adapted from Larry McMurtry's novel), Director (James L. Brooks who also adapted the screenplay) and Best Picture. Best scenes: Nicholson's blind date with an uptight MacLaine and MacLaine's heartache in getting her daughter morphine in a hospital.
  • Over the years, I have heard stories about how supposedly good this film was but I must say it is one of the most pretentious, overrated and worst movies to win multiple Academy Awards. I wanted to watch this film as my mother and father watched it in the 1980s when it was still relatively fresh and as a chick flick, you can guess my mother loved it and my father hated it. I was incredibly disappointed as there was not one thing redeemable about this film, whether it be the directing, the acting, the script and even the music playing throughout, all of this making the film feel like a made for TV movie or soap opera rather than a feature film. I can't accurately judge other films from this year but it seems like a weak year for films, 1983 and this about tops it. Shirley MacLaine and Debra Winger are totally unconvincing as mother and daughter, Jack Nicholson has been in far better form ( A Few Good Men, Batman, The Departed) as a supporting actor in particular, John Lithgow didn't get enough screen time as was the case also with Jeff Daniels. Probably the worst film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture and I think I need a few days to recover, not from supposed tears rolling down my cheeks but from the absurdity of a melodramatic pile of bile such as this.
  • Warning: Spoilers

    A gloopy soap opera starring Shirley MacLaine and Debra Winger as a contentious mother/daughter duo, whose on-again/off-again relationship culminates in the daughter dying of cancer in one of the most emotionally manipulative plot developments in the history of cinema.

    Both MacLaine and Winger are too good to waste their talents on this, but it's only because of their wisecracking smart-ass personalities that the film is watchable at all. Jack Nicholson, as a retired astronaut who cozies up to MacLaine, gives us all an inkling of the actor he would eventually turn into, all sarcastic smirking and self-conscious mugging.

    I especially hate the way this movie looks. It's gauzy and padded, all big hair and bigger shoulder pads. Nothing ever looks like it's completely in focus.

    Grade: D+
  • JNO.10 September 1998
    This is one of the worst films ever made. Shirley MacLaine over-acted within an inch of making me nauseous. It is basically the story of a mother who is a control freak and who cannot let her daughter live her own life. The daughter mistakenly lets her mother bring up her children when she is taken ill. Why they made a sequel is a mystery!
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