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  • style-231 January 2005
    Warning: Spoilers
    Creaking with metaphors, it is a lovely story to watch, with a knockout cast well-skilled in ensemble acting. But it plods along, documenting the making of a wedding quilt that incorporates the lives of each person who contributes to it. Finn Dodd (what a hideous name), played by Ryder, at her tentative and mysterious best, is spending the summer with her aunts, while finishing her thesis. She is also engaged to Sam (Mulroney), who seems to get needier, as Finn seems to be getting coldfeet. The quilt is a gift for Finn's wedding, and is a labor of love among a group of women whose lives are intertwined in the northern California wine country, each of them sewing a panel that expresses the theme, "Where love resides." But love resides in many different places among these women – from sisters Glady Jo and Hy, entertainingly played by Bancroft and Burstyn, who are exactly the kinds of aunts anyone would like to have in their family, to the prickly Em (Simmons), and the unconventional Constance (Nelligan). So many different stories, as interpreted in quilting panels, do not always make a pretty quilt, and much negotiating and compromise is the very nature of putting the quilt together, as it is in life. Not Ryder's best work, but Burstyn and Bancroft are delightful as the pot-smoking aunts, rockin' out to Neil Diamond's "Cherry, Cherry." Simmons is a pleasure to see – with quite a lengthy career behind her, she doesn't appear often. Samantha Mathis is always charming – it would be nice if things would really *click* for her career. Kate Nelligan is fabulous – I was never able to abide her work, presuming her to be like the kind of tight-assed, judgmental characters that she portrayed. But I unexpectedly caught her in "Frankie and Johnny" (with Al Pacino and Michelle Pfeiffer), and could not believe I was watching the woman I had scorned for so long. Now I look forward to seeing her every time she appears. In spite of many fascinating and multi-faceted characterizations, this vehicle does not serve any of these actresses well. One expects Greatness out of such an enormous and worthy cast, but the Entertain-o-meter stops short of Just Okay, and one wishes that such talent had been applied to a script that utilized their collective talent better. The concept of the story revolving around this group-effort is a fine concept, but director, Moorhouse, has to work hard to keep the story from fragmenting into oblivion. Though not weighing in as a heavyweight, the multitude of fine performances ensures that it is fine entertainment on a lazy day.
  • When Berkeley graduate student Finn decides to spend some time away from her live-in boyfriend, and moves in with her grandmother and great aunt for the summer, while finishing her master's thesis, she gets an important and heart-warming lesson about love and commitment. Finn's grandmother and great aunt are members of a quilting bee, and their group (whose members have known each other for a long time) decide that their latest project should have the theme of "where love resides." As the quilt is made, each woman remembers significant events in their lives which relate to love and the joy and pain that it brings. Each woman brings her own perspective to the nature of love, from Anna (who signs off on men completely after a bad experience)to her daughter Marianne (who cannot settle on just one man). Some of the women have been cheated on, some have done the cheating, while others just let love die.

    Along the way, Finn faces temptation in the form of Leon, a smoldering hunk who pursues her in spite of knowing that she is taken. At the same time, Finn must come to terms with her parents' failed marriage, as she decides whether to accept her boyfriend's marriage proposal.

    Inspite of the pains that the women have suffered in the name of love, the movie does not in any way bash love or marriage (which has recently become popular). It is a beautifully made film, and while it is definitely a "chick flick," it might also appeal to the more romantically minded guy.
  • cailean28 February 1999
    A very moving, beautifully-crafted film. As I have not read the book, I am unable to compare the two. But the movie is enough: the acting is wonderful, although we get only snippets of each actress/actor. The message is wonderful, and the soundtrack is equally touching. I would recommend this to anyone in love, or making a decision about love. Inspiration is abundant in this film about a young woman about to get married and in the process of building a house with her fiance. As she takes the summer away from him to write a thesis and stay with her Grandmother and Great Aunt, she finds them in the middle of making a quilt for her wedding. She also finds a very attractive young man, tempting her to cheat. What follows are stories told by and about each of the women in the quilting circle. The young women discovers that love is not perfect, and that you must take advantage of what you have, and that there is beauty in the known.
  • The thing with American Quilt, which you will especially notice if you have already read the book, is that it has a lot of contents to deal with in the ranges of a feature film. But Jocelyn Moorehouse obviously wanted to pack all the magic of the small stories of the women into this film, she wanted an entire quilt, full of bits and parts. It is only when understanding this that one can fully appreciate this wonderful piece. Fynn, escaping her partner and the life (marriage) probably unfolding before her, stays with her grandmother and -aunt for the summer. The serious young eccentric, a worried, messed-up hippie girl, confronts her future, her past and her present (dealing with gorgeous Johnathon Schaech chasing her with smiles and strawberries), when she dives into the life- and love stories told to her by the women in her grandmother´s quilting circle. The rest is magic. See the torture of love, the journeys of women and the revelations of grief and new beginnings, see what they hold dear, what will always stay with them, and learn what Fynn eventually comes to terms with: That life is not about perfection, it´s about balance, about putting the small things together, just like a quilt. So, okay, mechanically, Moorhouse really doesn´t have enough time for subtlety, and some characters and developments literally just fly by without any diving in. This will lead people to saying it´s superficial, but it´s not: It´s a journey, like looking out of a car window in another country: Just peeks. Bits. Parts. Parts of a quilt the movie leaves you to put together. If you do, like I did, it´s so moving and inspiring. Warm. The music of THE one-and-only Thomas Newman, the beautiful Winona Ryder, the charismatic ladies, the land, full of secrets and peace. This is what makes it special. Fast, but special. And the final highpoint, a literal "storm" that blows everything apart yet puts everything together, is a cinematic masterpiece, proof of heartfelt, imaginative work of both the writer and the director. They´re actually dreaming an ending together - just take this lovely movie in and stop bickering about reality. If you ask me.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    There are some bits of interesting stories here that could have been made into a powerful exploration of human relationships. There is a glimpse of a couple who after their children are born, see their dreams fade and their marriage die. There is a short scene about a black girl who is seduced, left pregnant and abandoned by a white, rich boy visiting from college. But all of this heavy material is left up in the air. It is the sideshow to the main part of this film which is such a farce that is seems that the circus has come to town.

    Before I get to that, a few positive comments. American Quilt is beautifully made. The lighting, sets, costumes, camera work often create a magical atmosphere which is warm and comfortable. Another nice part is Winona Ryder who I praise for not being anorexic like so many young actresses. She is fine in her role. Maya Angelou also gives a good sometimes tough, stoic performance.

    Now the grim details. This movie centers around a young woman, named Finn, who has cold feet about getting married and so cheats on her fiancé. This part of the plot is so predictable. As soon as the handsome swimmer shows up, we know this will happen. Now Finn's mother is known to have a different man every month or so. So far this is plausible but there is much more. Now to Finn's grandmother. Grandma had an affair with her sister's husband while grandma's husband lay dying in the hospital. Now grandma and her sister live together. Only in Hollywood would these two elderly supposedly small town women light up a joint and puff away and live happily ever after even though one woman slept with the other's husband.

    What's really amazing is that this movie expects us to believe that this could happen twice in the same small town. You see the grandmother and her sister belong to a group of women who are making a quilt for Finn. Another woman is having an affair with another woman's husband. Two women have had affairs with two other women's husbands and they all get along in this quilting group. It's truly amazing.

    After being surprised and chuckling about all of this, I still tried to appreciate the better parts of this film. But what led me to give up hope is that just after Finn confesses that she has cheated on her fiancé, a violent wind comes, blowing her masters thesis out the window. Please, what is this the Ten Commandments?

    I can only feel sad when I see half of a good movie here wasted by being cobbled together with Hollywood nonsense. This is a lesson in how to make an American movie mess.
  • There are only two reasons to watch this film: Winona Ryder's wonderful (as usual) performance, and Janusz Kaminski's spectacular cinematography.

    Ryder breathes life into Finn Dodd, portraying her as a charming, intelligent, and highly sensitive young woman struggling to define what love and commitment mean to her. Ryder is one of those few actresses who is able to relay a world of meaning in just her facial expressions alone. She's mesmerizing to watch onscreen.

    Added to Ryder's enchanting performance is Academy Award winning cinematographer Janusz Kaminski's beautiful, flowing images. There are many tiresome flashback sequences in this film, but they are all worth seeing just for the artistic value of the photography. Kaminski makes wonderful use of fluid camera movements and grainy filters to capture the essence of each time and place portrayed. It's no wonder Kaminski won an Academy Award for his work in Schindler's List and will most likely win another for Saving Private Ryan.

    Other than these elements, this film has very little going for it. The screenplay is muddled and jumpy, and there are far too many characters with far too many inconsequential flashback sequences that say very little about the nature of either love or commitment. The story concerns nothing more than a bunch of old women sharing completely one-sided and sexist sob stories. Like The Joy Luck Club and Waiting to Exhale, this film portrays men as little more than duplicitous, moronic, emotionally immature children who are incapable of either expressing true love or loyalty. It is a completely shallow look at adult human relationships and has nothing new or profound to say about anything.

    As a male supporter of feminism and feminist artistic expression, it saddens me that films like this are, first of all, even made, and then marketed as movies that modern women should see and even cherish. There are many far better films about women and their unique experiences, the most recent one being a small film called High Art, written and directed by Lisa Cholodenko and starring Ally Sheedy in one of 1998's best performances.
  • I have spent many pleasant hours mocking "How To Make An American Quilt" to friends, but at this moment I want to play fair. I'm sure that there are many things to like about this movie and that somehow they escaped my notice. For me it was never more than a series of plot devices stitched together (ha ha) to form an unsatisfying story.

    Winona Ryder is always a pleasure to watch. I've liked her better in more irreverent titles like "Beetlejuice" or "Heathers". Still, she wears earnestness well, and manages to make bearable the Poloniusesque quilt speech at end of the picture (see the quotes section).

    The supporting players should be every bit as watchable (with several centuries of acting experience among them, they ought to be). I wish I'd been allowed to watch them act. Their function was to sit in front of the camera quilting and say a few words of introduction before the flashback--as if they were hosts of a documentary.

    I want to pause for a moment over Maya Angelou's casting. It's always a tricky thing introducing a famous person from another discipline as an actor. I call it the "Hey, you're Kareem Abdul-Jabbar" problem (based on the scene from _Airplane_ where a kid recognizes the basketball player in the co-pilot's seat. The joke is in how much time he spends denying it). Maya Angelou has screen presence, but does nothing to dispel the problem. My dominant experience watching her was, "Wow, they got Maya Angelou, world famous poet!" Maybe this was the idea. Maybe the filmmakers felt her famous presence would, in itself, add depth to the proceedings, so why muddy it with anything as messy as an interesting character? Her appearance was less acting than promotion. Maya Angelou wouldn't appear in a dog, would she?


    The plot reminds me of a line Robin Williams had about alcoholics, "You realize you're and alcoholic when you repeat yourself. You realize you're an alcoholic when you repeat yourself. You realize, oh dammit." Each woman's story follows a similar pattern. Girl meets boy, sleeps with boy, marries boy, boy leaves, boy comes back--each time unconvincingly (I wonder how far any guy has ever gotten with the opening line "You swim like a mermaid"). The Alfre Woodard story is the only variation, and as a result, the only interesting one among them.

    And of course Winona Ryder's Finn has a similar problem. Does she marry Dermott Mulrooney or does she go off with the local stud muffin. I call him the local stud muffin because that's all he is. The actor who played him didn't convince me that there was anything under the perfect I-don't-have-to-work-out abs that would compel her to do more than roll in the field with him. He wasn't a character so much a plot device meant to set up an obvious choice. Handsome rogue or dependable architecht? Given the way the flashbacks ran, take a guess.

    There are more scenes to pummel here. There's the thesis blowing away in the wind (she's the only grad student I've ever seen with no notes, no paperweight, and, since she was using a typewriter, no carbons), and there's her random meeting with the Stud Muffin (who just happened to be hanging out in the groves with a picnic basket and a blanket for her. I guess this was set before the advent of stalking laws), but it would take too long to mock them all. The real trouble with the movie is that it was so earnest, so desperate to convince the audience of its poetic depths, that it wound up shallow, unsatisfying, unconvincing and unintentionally funny.

    Or, to put it another way--never have so many, who were so talented, worked on something so ordinary.
  • This adaptation by screenwriter Jane Anderson (novel by Whitney Otto) presents us with a character named Finn Dodd (Ryder), a 26-year old college student who has just gotten engaged to her long-time sweetheart Sam (Mulroney). She begins to realize the many changes that will come about because of her acceptance to his proposal and needs time to think and adjust. She decides to spend three months at her grandma Hy's house in Grasse, CA, which is the center of operations to a longtime quilting bee. During her tenure, she continues working on her master's thesis (a project of which she continuously changes her topic), all the while listening to the quilting bee's romantic horror stories as they craft Finn's wedding quilt.

    To sum it up, `How To Make An American Quilt' is the quintessential chick flick awash with many familiar faces including Maya Angelou. The Pulitzer Prize-winning poet stars as Anna, the queen of an eight-member sewing circle consisting of Glady Jo Cleary (Anne Bancroft), Hy Cleary (Ellen Burstyn), her daughter Marianna (Alfre Woodard), Em Reed (Jean Simmons), Constance Saunders (Kate Nelligan) and Sophia Darling (Lois Smith). Anna winds up in the Cleary household at 16 - pregnant, unmarried and helpless. She will dwell there until the birth of her child, meeting Hy and Glady Jo for the first time. Little does she know that these two young women will remain in her life for years afterward, their interest and skill in the art of quilting mounting over the years by Anna's guidance.

    There is also the story of Hy and Glady Jo themselves and their unspoken bitterness towards each other - we learn that Hy is the reason for Glady Jo's `self-expression' all over the walls of the laundry room. Then there is Sophia, an aspiring diver in her adolescence and later an abandoned mother of three; Em, wife to a histrionic artist, suffering his recurrent infidelity; Constance, a decent woman who endures the loss of her nearest and dearest, left with only her precious memories and Marianna, a lover of many but starved for the discovery of her soulmate.

    We find as the film goes on that many instances of infidelity exist in the characters' cluttered histories. Half the women in this movie commit adultery at some point and even Finn falls victim to temptation. Where as once I could not relate, I find myself agreeing with many of Finn's thoughts and opinions on marriage upon becoming engaged - this includes a question in the very beginning that Ryder's voiceover poses to the audience: `How do you merge into this thing called 'a couple', and still keep a little room for yourself? How do we even know we're only supposed to be with one person for the rest of our lives?' These kinds of questions number in the hundreds of intended couples as they come closer to walking the proverbial aisle. I know that I have had my own reservations about marriage ever since I got engaged and many of my questions will never have an answer - I must trust my heart.and my gut.

    Performances range in the areas of premium to mediocre. Who comes at the top of my list are screen veterans (and Academy Award winners, natch) Ellen Burstyn and Anne Bancroft. These two never cease to amaze me with how they can turn a character inside out and make it their own. Winona Ryder is so-so (as she is in most of her movies) as Finn but she does manage to touch a few nerves with her dark and luminous eyes - those pretty peepers are half of her dramatic capacity. Alfre Woodard is excellent, giving Marianna a carved edge but a soft core. Kate Nelligan is also wonderful but if you really wanna see her flex those acting chops, take a deep breath of Lila Wingo in `The Prince of Tides'. Dermot Mulroney always seems to play a nice guy that gets taken for granted (The Thing Called Love, My Best Friend's Wedding, Point Of No Return, etc.) and he does it again here - actis repeatus, you might say. Jean Simmons is a little disappointing as Em, the once beautiful and poised actress now only a shadow of herself. Maya Angelou does fine as Anna and some of Gen X's more popular faces make brief appearances in supporting roles (Claire Danes, Samantha Mathis, Jared Leto and Jonathan Schaech).

    This film is a fairly even script-to-screen production and will please many that seek a decent character study. Of course, you can't outdo a detailed and poetic novel or the insightful author who writes it. As long as novelists continue to exist and evolve, filmic adaptations cannot compare (though there are a few exceptions here and there, e.g. Dolores Claiborne). This is not to say that `How To Make An American Quilt' isn't enjoyable - it's just not on par with what can be translated through literature. For those who have read Otto's novel, it will earn your rigid criticism.
  • That is the point of this movie at its core. A point every positive reviewer (and some of the negative ones) seem to miss. They talk about Finn's quest for discovery, or lessons she learned but fail to tell you what the lesson is.

    Most of the women in the movie have been cheated on. Finn suspects her fiancee is cheating (but the movie never bothers to find out for sure) Finn's aunt slept with Finn's grandfather (both aunt and grandmother are in the quilting circle) One woman's husband is a serial cheater, and one of the other women in the circle is one of his conquests. She is unapologetic about it, feels completely justified in betraying her friend, and is even indignant that she is getting any attitude about it. While chronicling all of this Finn cheats on her fiancee.

    Then a big storm hits and everyone who was angry about being betrayed gets over it. Everyone feeling guilty about cheating gets over it. All the people still currently cheating get to brush it all aside cuz they still love the person they have been unfaithful to. THE END

    So there is your great lesson. Everyone cheats, no one should feel bad about it, and promises of faithfulness and fidelity can be casually dismissed
  • preppy-317 September 2001
    Winona Ryder spends a summer with her aunts while writing her thesis and deciding whether to marry her fiancée Dermot Mulroney. She learns about life and love through her aunts and friends while they sew a huge quilt together. Good, well-done but there's too much material for one movie. There are 5 flashbacks along with the main story and they're given very short shrift. The real pleasure is seeing a bunch of pros (Ellen Burnstyn, Anne Bancroft, Winona Ryder, etc) act with a talented then-unknown cast (Jonathan Schaech, Claire Danes, Mulroney, etc etc)... everyone's good and on target. Nothing new script-wise but I was never bored. Also good to see the late Esther Rolle and Jared Leto in small bits. Worth catching, but very talky at times.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Near the beginning of the movie, Finn (played by Winona Ryder) offers this rather drab and depressing observation: "love sometimes dies." Well, sure - and I suppose most of us have been present at its death at some point in our lives, but I don't know that I want to have to be in on the autopsy afterward. Personally, as obviously true as the above statement from Finn may be, I'll still take 1 Corinthians 13:8 - "love never fails." It sounds so much more hopeful! As for this movie, it was just a dismal portrayal of love, marriage - and men, who generally come across here as rather unlovable, adulterous and shallow twits.

    Much of the movie is told in flashbacks. Finn is a young college student writing a master's thesis who gets engaged and then promptly heads off to stay with her grandma and aunt and their friends for an entire summer while they make her wedding quilt. The movie revolves around the stories of the women's loves - and, for the most part, it ain't a happy story! They've all failed at love in one way or another (or, more usually, the men they loved failed them) and they end up getting poor Finn to the point of wanting to back out on her own wedding.

    From my perspective none of the performances here were particularly memorable (including Ryder's) and the characters not all that interesting or memorable. The movie ends with what appears to be some attempt at redemption, but you have to be able to stick with it long enough to get there, and then the redemption itself is a sort of qualified one as Finn ends her narration by essentially saying that she and her fiancé Sam might as well go through with this marriage thing because they have as much chance of succeeding as failing, and maybe their love will tip the scales ever so slightly on the "success" side of the scale. Isn't that heartwarming (or pathetic!) 2/10 (and I'm struggling to remember why I decided to go that high!)
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This movie came out years ago when I was younger and I believe getting married for the first time. And I'm quite glad I didn't watch this then. And I'll tell you why, this movie will scare anyone away from getting married. This is a movie about a young woman engaged to a carpenter who is building her her dream home for when they get married because they're engaged and she is apparently a student I'm not sure exactly what her major is because it's very odd she's writing her senior thesis Arts of I guess a tactile nature from different areas. Though she doesn't seem to be an art major. She is having doubts about getting married and instead of sitting down with her fiance and talking about things and trying to work them out, she decides to run off to the home of her grandmother and great-aunt using the excuse that they are part of a quilting Circle, and she can use that in her senior thesis. But from there all hell breaks loose. She ends up hearing the stories of every woman in the quilting Circle as they are making the patchwork pieces, and every single woman has a whole closet full of skeletons! One woman's husband cheated on her but she chose to stay loyal to him, one woman had an affair when she was a young girl and decided to keep the baby and then just take off and follow a Raven That's supposedly let her to her future husband but as she was traveling there was no sign of the baby so they really didn't explain that one very well I'm guessing she dumped the baby somewhere. 1 sister as her husband laid dying of cancer cornered the other sister's husband and had an affair. It was just cheating app on cheating upon on cheating! Even Winona Ryder's character when her fiance came to visit and they had a fight and he left she was worried and called him many times and he didn't answer and then all of a sudden a female answered. His excuse was she must have dialed the wrong number. But she was so neurotic about it because she had already cheated herself at least once that we know of and probably more than once because she kept seeing the guy he was some young guy whose family own a farm in the area! Her grandmother told her not to tell her fiance. She asked her grandmother's friend, who do you marry someone you love or someone you lust? And the friend answers truthfully, your soulmate. I think I wish I'd never seen this movie, there's a lot more to it than what I've said here but I've already put in enough spoilers and I don't like to do that with movies but this movie really angered me. When you're talking to a young woman who's getting ready to get married, you don't sit her down and talk to her about cheating. You talk to her about the right way to have a marriage that lasts for decades! And that's certainly not by having affairs! I wouldn't watch this movie again if you paid me.
  • Bride-to-be Finn Dodd (Winona Ryder) hears tales of romance and sorrow from her elders as they construct a quilt.

    Is this a chick flick or something more? I think it is primarily a chick flick, as it tells multiple romance stories from the point of view of the ladies. But it is not a romantic comedy, which makes it deeper than the average chick flick. And the cast... wow. Winona Ryder, Maya Angelou, Claire Danes and the debut of Jared Leto? That has to make it worth something.

    And actually, it was the cast that really made this enjoyable for me. I cared very little about the plot, and definitely did not care about the romances. Finn could be with her boyfriend, a foreign guy or whoever. I don't care who she picks. But the casting was excellent.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I really liked this film, the same way I like the idea of someone in trouble (Finn) going to her country home and there finding a suitable distraction, until she will make her mind around her problems. That distraction was of course the stories of the magnificent women of her grand-mom's quilt making beehive.

    One thing I didn't like though in the film was how self absorbed and immature the leading character is. I found my self at the end caring more about the secondary characters than Finn! One point in the film that shows how Finn really is as a character is when Sophia Darling brings her the lost pages from her thesis. There, Finn is so typical and indifferent that instantly drove me away from her. This is the only scene in the film where Sophia actually wants to say something personal, to open up, but Finn is actually rude. It's like she's saying to her:

    "OK, old lady. Thank you for bringing me the pages and telling me I am a good writer. However, this doesn't mean I have to pay attention in whatever you have the urge to say. Actually, I already know your bloody story and I find it just pathetic. Now buzz off and let me be!"

    I don't have to say that from all the stories, of the "quilting beehive women", I was both drawn and saddened the most by the one of Sophia.

    Life played her such an unfair game: She wanted to became a diver and so she asked her beau to help her get out of that small town. But, as it usually happens, he got her pregnant instead and she had to get married and having to spend a lot of time home alone being a housewife. That totally killed her spirit and passion and left her a bitter old woman that blamed her husband for her life going wrong.

    Her husband (finally) realized that and made some efforts to get back together. He did that by building her a pond, in order to remind her her old free self. However, that ironically ended it all, since it was too painful for her to remember how she was (comparing to what she is). That was the saddest thing, to Sophia, since building a pond for someone who loved to dive was ironically sad and showed such lack of understanding, that it was almost disrespectful. And so they argued. She did try to make amends but it was too late. Her husband, partly because of disappointed and partly because of quilt, left her.

    And something last: If you wanna "watch" more stories about americal quilts that hide really fascinating stories, then you must read the books in the Shenandoah Album by Emilie Richards. There are 5 books in this collection, all best sellers...
  • I have watched parts of this movie more than once. The movie from start to finish only once. Each story unfolds like a facet on the quilt. Then as the main plot line draws to a conclusion, the thread that binds these stories together resolves each individual facet, to complete the whole.

    Quilting as I understand it, is bringing many contributions together to create a final product. Each little design tells a story and the master quilter put's these stories together , to convey a theme or message.

    I have not read the novel, but the movie conveys the message in it's title.

    The soundtrack is tranquil and adds to the mood.

    The interplay between Burstyn and Bancroft is a pleasure to watch. Winona is excellent.
  • I know I am going to get some stick for the above summary, and pigeonholed as some misogynistic dinosaur, which I don't think I am, but I really cannot see any male getting more than minimal enjoyment from this movie (or for that matter, most self-respecting modern females). I like romantic and affecting movies, and can even support feminism if it's presented in the right way, but it was obvious right from the start that this film was aimed at the fairer sex; especially women who are 'survivors'.

    I felt totally excluded. An effort to try and make it appealing, regardless of what group you identify with, would have gone a long way.

    The only reason I tuned in initially was for a glimpse of the lovely Miss Ryder, most likely the source of that minimal male enjoyment I was talking about earlier. None of the cast particularly irked me, but then neither was I inspired.

    Ultimately, regardless of the argument about whether this film was made for men, women or both, there really should be no excuse for the direction to be so plodding. That, really, is its biggest sin, irrespective of whether feminist issues make you want to go and see the film, their treatment is leaden.

    I will doubtless watch the film again one day when I'm in a more forgiving frame of mind; but first impressions count for a lot, and I was NOT impressed. Make of that what you will.
  • Love, development and maturity all form the embroidery for this "more than a Hollywood drama piece" quilt, with stitching that matches the craftily, skilfully and fruitfully detailed needlework. From the needle of a great, star-laden ensemble, the patterns have been carefully but imaginatively sown into the wool - from a powerful exploration of human relationships to the torture of love, the journeys of women and the revelations of grief and new beginnings - there are many materials and colours used to form this quilt, and there is something that will appeal to everyone. Just like an American quilt, you too seem to become apart of the amazing, cathartic story lines, which weave together to make this cinematic masterpiece. It is evident that the embroiderer clearly knows how to make an American Quilt!
  • This is the sort of movie that you see, and after you've seen it, you realize you ought to have read the book instead. The characters were just too much, I think, for the director (or screenwriters) to handle. None of the characters were boring, but they were predictable.

    This is the story of a young woman named Finn, who is working on her third attempt at a Master's thesis and has just been proposed to by her boyfriend. She decides to spend the summer with her grandmother and aunt in a very small, California town so she can figure things out. Her grandmother, aunt and their quilting circle get together to make Finn's wedding quilt, and share stories of their past (and current) loves.

    Some of the acting is quite good; I especially liked Gena Rowlands and Anne Bancroft. Ryder is, as usual, kind of drippy. A little too cute to be your average Jo; it's hard for me to take her seriously. In any case, the women's stories are usually interesting, but lack depth. I'm sure the movie didn't do the original story justice.

    On the positive side, there is the nice use of flashbacks into different times and places; and I think this movie was just as much about how men relate to women as it was about women trying to deal with their men.

    This film also features Winona (once again) narrating herself; a technique that is beginning to wear on my nerves. All in all, I was disappointed by the overall product; it was rather like a few intriguing patches being wasted in a pretty, but unimaginative quilt.
  • I'll save you some time. Gents, feel free to skip this movie. Based off the Whitney Otto novel, How to Make an American Quilt shows the audience a confused woman and the journey she takes to find herself as she talks to the women in her knitting group. If you like those kinds of "girl power" movies like Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood or Fried Green Tomatoes, you'll definitely want to watch this one.

    I don't happen to like those kinds of movies, so despite the large cast—Winona Ryder, Afre Woodard, Jean Simmons, Anne Bancroft, Ellen Burstyn, Maya Angelou, and Kate Nelligan—I didn't like this movie. Many women will find this movie touching and heartwarming, but it did nothing for me. The overriding theme is that every woman is a patchwork product of the other women in her life, so when we choose our path of love, it's not really because we're choosing it; it's because all the other women's experiences in love have taught us and shaped us. I've never been a huge fan of estrogen-fest films, but if you like them, rent this one with your girlfriends.
  • I would not normally choose to watch this type of movie, but it was the only thing on TV that was in English. Having said that, there was enough to keep me interested.

    Movies based on books must make trade-offs in terms of what stays and what goes. 'Quilt' couldn't make up its mind what to cut, so there is a bit of everything. I felt the movie was on fast forward for the entire time.

    The message was also a bit muddled. All men are schmucks? All women are schmucks? (but just more discreet about it). Marriage is crap? Marriage is about love? (i.e. the "where love reside" them of the quilt.

    At the end of the day, I expect a movie such as this to tell a good story. Stories, like real life, don't necessarily have clear messages. So putting all the artistic crap aside, this movie had a nice little story, and it was a decent way to spend a few hours.
  • This movie tells about men and women, and ties that bind them (us, I mean).

    I haven't read the novel, and I'm the kind of person who believes that the movie is not to be compared with any novel who based it, because they're using different media. So the way I see it, it's a good movie. We can easily understand it's messages and sympathy with the characters.

    Winona, by the way, appears to be a sweet girl who's having trouble following her 'advisors' ideas and wisdom. On the screen, she appears to be having quite difficulty matching these women's acts. We see her the way she is in 'Edward Scissorhand', or 'Reality Bites', or her other movies. Maybe because she's so sweet and pretty, and I was carried away with her big eyes. So I see her in this movie very usual and not special.

    The movie itself is beautiful and sweet. The casts are nice. We ended up wondering about our relationships and ourselves.

    A must see. Watch it with your close friends, spouse, or parents.
  • The cast as an ensemble gave a truly touching, homogenous performance. putting the same cast onto stage with this same story which might quite easily be transformed into a stage script (has that been done?) would also give a perfect theater evening.

    Just enough smiles to prevent tears distilled from the viewers' own lives from clouding their view.

  • Boyo-223 December 1998
    A killer cast was assembled to bring this story to life. I enjoyed every performer, especially Kates Capshaw and Nelligan. But the book was better.
  • How to Make an American Quilt is a nice comfortable movie, and unlike so many other films belonging to the 'coming of age' genre, it doesn't leave the viewer feeling emotionally drained. It is also unusual in that it attempts to breach the generation divide in its appeal; however its success in this respect is debatable.

    Finn is 26 and, hoping for some peace and quiet in which to complete her Master's thesis, she heads for her great-aunt's house in small-town Grasse, California. She also needs time to mull over a marriage proposal from her boyfriend. This is an entrance cue for a smoulderingly handsome strawberry farmer (in an unnecessary plot complication) to hinder Finn's contemplations.

    Great-aunt Glady-Joe lives with her sister, Hy, and their constant bickering is portrayed with sensitivity and humour by Anne Bancroft and Ellen Burstyn. The two sisters belong to a quilting group, who are in the process of creating Finn's wedding quilt - thematically titled 'where love resides'. This evokes something different for each of the women, all of whom - in artificially contrived tete-a-tetes - explain to Finn the story behind their contributions to the quilt. The viewer is transported to a time when these elderly women were young, and through them we (along with Finn) learn that times may change, but affairs of the heart will always be unpredictable.

    These dalliances in the past are refreshingly piquant; unfortunately this is countered by the film's occasional heavy-handedness. The symbolic crow that leads the women to their true love has all the subtlety of a flashing neon sign. Ultimately however, even if it does perhaps tie up the loose ends too thoroughly, the film will leave the viewer pleasantly satisfied.
  • VinylSound3 January 2003
    Though it seems apparent that this film could have gone in one of many directions, the director chose an enjoyable and fairly plausible one.

    Every one "cheats" in their marriage is pretty much the theme, but forgiveness completes the circle broken by infidelity.

    The story telling devices are simple---easy to follow and on some level "wonderous" to behold. If you are prone to a tear or two, get out a hankie. I just thought it was nicely done.
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