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Steel Magnolias
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27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
I had almost no desire to write commentary about the Lifetime Original movie "Steel Magnolias." I'm no big fan of the original, although I understand its enduring popularity. And I'm no big fan of this interpretation, although it's a perfectly respectable adaptation. The thing that pushed me into a review was a detracting statement in one of the other blurbs that proclaimed "this attempt is about as bad as a white version of The Color Purple would be." There's a lot that I could say about such a comment for any variety of reasons, but I'll let you judge it on its own merits. First of all, though, let me just state that "Steel Magnolias" started life as a play. Plays are frequently reinterpreted through the years (oftentimes successfully, sometimes not) and restaged. Playwright Robert Harling (who also wrote the 1989 screenplay for the film) was the first to have the idea of adapting his work into a piece for African American women. It's a perfectly legitimate, if not entirely necessary, choice. As I said, I wasn't clamoring for a new "Steel Magnolias" but this production has some good actresses, has its heart in the right place, and is head and tails above most of Lifetime's Original fare.

The original film "Steel Magnolias" is undeniably beloved by many. To be sure, it's emotionally manipulative (that's the nature of the piece and why I don't love it) but it succeeds with an A-list cast, over-the-top Southern charm, and tart quotable dialogue. To think that with the original team of ladies (Sally Field, Olympia Dukakis, Dolly Parton, Darryl Hannah, and Shirely Maclaine), it was Julia Roberts who was a relative unknown at the time. Roberts' Shelby was a bit too much of a saint for my taste, but she picked up a nod for Best Supporting Actress at the Oscars. The TV remake, obviously, isn't boasting the movie star roster of its predecessor. That is both to be expected and one of the unfavorable comparisons. You've still got an impressive array of actresses including Queen Latifah, Phylicia Rashad, Jill Scott (always love), and Alfre Woodard (one of the greats). But despite these capable actresses, the film simply can't compare in terms of star wattage.

In terms of plot, everything remains basically the same. In tone, however, this variation seems decidedly more restrained. Some of the antics in the original film were almost campy and played to the rafters, that's why some of the funniest lines are so memorable. This plays it a little straighter, going for more authenticity and realness. This choice does little to distract from the shortcomings of the story, however, and so the film feels milder and a bit more flavorless. The strong bond of women and the message of friendship are still intact and are as lovely as ever, but the presentation is less bold. Overall, it's pleasant enough and worth watching (especially if you like the new ladies), but it may seem unnecessary to die-hard fans of the original.

The film scored a ton of nominations at both the Black Reel Awards and the Image Awards, and Woodard picked up a nod for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries at the Screen Actors Guild Awards. Some may wish to dismiss this version out of hand, and that's fine. But Lifetime's "Steel Magnolias" is geared to a different and new audience that may not be as emotionally connected to the previous version. I liked it (about 3 1/2 stars) well enough, and it certainly isn't a disaster. Check it out for the cast. KGHarris, 5/13
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon June 5, 2013
I watch the original Steel Magnolias every year at Easter time. The original is much more holiday themed and structured than this remake. So I have seen the original maybe 20 times. It is unabashedly corny. The actors are not afraid to go over the top with some frankly schticky lines. I love that movie but do not think it is in any way a great movie. But this review is about the remake.

It seems like the makers of this film identified some of the same weaknesses in the original as I did. In particular, the remake fleshes out some of the male characters and gives them more of a voice. Of course Steel Magnolias is the quintessential chick flick, but I don't think it is fair to cast a bunch of men and give them very little to do but make the occasional crude remark. The men in the new version, particularly Jackson and Drum, are (at least sometimes) smart, caring, compassionate men who are not afraid to show their love for the women in their lives. They have real conversations. They help their women. It was an interesting choice to essentially remove Spud from the remake - his character was the most appealing male in the original.

I also like the treatment of some of the campier dialogue from the original. It is toned down or removed entirely. Dolly Parton, Shirley MacLaine, Olympia Dukakis are actresses who attack a bad joke with gusto. Queen Latifah, Phylicia Rashad, Alfre Woodard approach their characters organically. I was especially interested to see how Queen Latifah would handle M'Lynn's "aria" from the cemetery scene. I found it to be very pleasing and quite possibly an improvement on the original. Setting this speech in the beauty shop was smart. M'Lynn is on her home turf, grieving but under control, grateful for the support of her friends but also acknowledging the need to deal with her issues alone. I realize I have seen the Sally Field speech many times and am somewhat inured to its charms, but I was very moved by Latifah's delivery of that same speech.

I went back and forth a bit over the casting of Condola Rashad as Shelby. She basically just delivers lines with little emotion. I tried to think of it as a restrained interpretation, but it ends up being really not much of anything. I'm sure it's tough to be compared to Julia Roberts, but I wish this remake had put up a more worthy candidate. The remake ends with a highlight reel of Condola's performance, and unfortunately that is just a reminder of its weakness.

The ending - that's why I watch this movie at Easter time, because of the theme of rebirth and hope and moving on with some joy after tragedy. The remake completely eliminates that scene and ends up being a bit of a downer.

All in all, it's an interesting interpretation of the original. I am not one of those people who feel that there was absolutely no need for a remake of Steel Magnolias. I think the remake is more accessible and realistic in some ways, also more modern. It is definitely worthy of comparison to the original.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on June 7, 2013
This movie touched my heart. As a mother and a southern lady, it just hit me so close to home. Phylicia Rashad and Queen Latifah were awesome as always, and should be very proud to have participated in this film. All of the cast was wonderful and really conveyed love and fear and letting go very well.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
I've seen the 1989 version of Steel Magnolias more times than I care to count. I know every line by heart. My friends and I use lines from this movie as throw-away lines (e.g. "I'm not crazy, I've just been in a bad mood for forty years"). I've seen the stage play countless times, also, performed by local theatre groups to professional troupes. I say that to emphasize what a fan I am of this story. So, by happenstance when I was home sick and saw a promo for this remake while watching sitcom reruns on Lifetime I almost fell off the couch.

An All-Black remake of Steel Magnolias is such a perfect idea! This version is updated but still holds true to its theme of friendships among women--a theme that crosses racial lines. I, personally, found it a little more emotional especially the scenes with Shelby and M'Lynn after the former's kidney failure.

Kudos to Lifetime and this great cast for remaking this wonderful story.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on January 27, 2014
While I love this movie and really like Queen Latifah & Phylicia Rashad, I just think this movie just did not come together. The lines seemed a little robotic and about half way through I felt I was forcing myself to continue sitting through it. The dynamics of the cast in the original movie was just not here in this remake.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on April 2, 2014
I am glad there is an African American Version of this. It shows how a mother can be objective, and partial to her adult kids @ The same time. Queen Latifah does a great job, and the rest of the cast help her.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on November 7, 2013
Excellent movie! This is Queen Latifah at her best. I was really surprised with her performance. Phylicia Rashad and the rest of the cast did an excellent job as well.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on April 3, 2014
This was so bad I don't know how this got made. The original was so much better in this one it felt forced and the acting was just plain bad. It felt like sense they knew that Shelby was going to die that they where to down in the dumps all the time. The other one made you laugh even when you where crying.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on May 10, 2013
This is a really good movie. It's a tearjerker but I liked it. Never saw the original but I definitely like this version very touching movie.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon May 12, 2013
Well, the release of this remake was a bit controversial, albeit unnecessarily in my opinion. Regardless of the fact that many people feel a certain way about this movie being remade with an all African American cast, who are clearly in stark physical contrast to the original cast, I find this tearjerker of a chick-flick to be very entertaining and moving. I have to admit that I have never seen the original; I had heard of it before but the actresses (all but one of whom I've never heard of) and their outdated looks just did not appeal to me. However, this movie has some of my favorite actresses, including Alfre Woodard (Funny Valentines), Phylicia Rashad (The Cosby Show), and Queen Latifah (Living Single), which was the main reason I wanted to see it. The performances are powerful and touching, with Queen Latifah's scenes toward the end literally bring me to tears every single time. Even my mother, who doesn't watch TV, was drawn to this movie and fought back tears despite the fact that she NEVER cries (like, ever).

Say what you will about the specific differences of remake, but it is tastefully done and if anything pays homage to the original through its wonderful performances. I believe that this movie has managed to captivate a newer, younger audience that otherwise probably never would have paid any attention to the original. Why make it over? In my eyes, it was done in order to update the movie and keep the story alive and relatable to even more people.
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