Terms of Endearment

on January 01, 1984 by BOXOFFICE Staff
   With laughter, tears and wall-to-wall great performances, "Terms of Endearment" will be a big hit at Christmas and a strong contender at Oscar time. The film chronicles the love lives of Aurora Greenway (Shirley MacLaine) and her spirited, devoted daughter Emma (Debra Winger). Aurora, a fiery widow living in an exclusive suburb of Houston, has lots of corny suitors but lives for her daughter. When Emma marries college teacher Flap Horton (Jeff Daniels), whom Aurora can't stand, Aurora doesn't even go to the wedding. The couple moves to Des Moines, and the rest of the film follows the two women's parallel destinies.
   "Terms of Endearment" is the kind of movie that audiences and exhibitors are waiting for at Christmas time. It's a large film with lots of intimate moments, endearing characters and a perfect blend of laughing-out-loud comedy and tearful drama. Writer/director/producer James L. Brooks has adapted one of Texas writer Larry McMurtry's big generational novels with a weather eye for the belly-laugh acquired from his years of laboring in television, where he was co-creator of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," among others. The basically melodramatic material is played up for laughs most of the time, softening the audience up for the shocking death of the character who has embodied the life-force from the beginning.
   The actors revel in their parts. Winger is fantastic, and MacLaine and Jack Nicholson (as Aurora's next-door neighbor, a randy ex-astronaut named Garrett Breedlove) bring back the fine art of squabbling, Tracy-Hepburn romantic comedy. Nicholson in particular turns in his most winning performance since his "debut" in "Easy Rider," here playing the terminally crude star-voyager with a demented leer and a pot-belly. John Lithgow, Danny DeVito and Jeff Daniels are standouts in a large supporting cast with no weak links: Lithgow's little speech about "the farmer aspect of life" is one of the moments when McMurtry's art shines through and deepens a film that never quite turns into just an entertainment. FLASHBACK: JANUARY, 1984
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