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Terms of Endearment

Posted by martinteller on January 12, 2014

This is one of those movies that I felt like I should see at some point, and my girlfriend wanted to show it to me.  Unfortunately, while she was weeping and sniffling beside me at the end, I felt nothing but guilt that I wasn’t sharing in her emotions.  I just didn’t care about these characters.  Well, let me amend that.  I enjoyed the relationship between MacLaine and Nicholson, which was funny and messy and complicated and felt at least somewhat genuine.  But the Winger/Daniels bit did nothing for me.  In fact, I went from being rather “meh” about Winger to actively disliking her.  Apparently hypocritical self-righteousness gives you cancer, or something.  I have a great appreciation for flawed characters, and the moment when a flash of guilt crosses her face is almost redeeming, but she’s just not interesting enough.  For a film that is at least 50% about Emma, she feels like such a poorly-drawn character without strong, definable traits.  And the scene where she talks to her kids for the last time seems to come out of nowhere… for the rest of the movie they’re just props, lingering in the background or being dragged along on errands.  Suddenly in the space of one scene we’re supposed to buy into this strained relationship with her son.

It also must be said that Michael Gore’s score for this film reaches new depths of awfulness.  That may sound nitpicky, but music can be vital to a movie, especially when it’s featured so frequently and prominently.  It tramples on almost every scene, swelling with these saccharine, forgettable melodies.  The right music (or lack of) can situate you in the emotional core of a scene… the wrong music can stubbornly defy you not to feel something.  Understated isn’t always better in every case, but this music is so pushy (and yet so bland) that it invariably feels intrusive.

MacLaine is, no surprise, the best thing about this movie.  It’s a shame that Winger — or her character — doesn’t hold up her end of the deal nearly as well.  Rating: Poor (50)


2 Responses to “Terms of Endearment”

  1. Alan said

    Gotta say, I think your overall rating of “Poor’ is a little extreme. It’s certainly moving(you must have some regard for your girlfriend’s involvement?(unless you don’t respect her emotions?) While I found myself avoiding the film for a while ( I’m a little bit prejudiced and resistant about films that are going to involve my emotions to the extent that they are going to make me cry-yes, I am a wimp- many years ago I remember finding myself a bawling mess on the sidewalk after seeing the movie “Johnny Got His Gun”. MacLaine is a favorite-in the right film- and she was terrific in this.

    Unrelated comment :Have you ever seen “Ask The Dust”? , a flawed film and strangely mannered but I found it to a degree, quite mesmerizing, last nigh?t

    • Of course I respect her emotions, that doesn’t mean I’m gonna moved by the same things. I cry at a LOT of movies, but I didn’t at this one.

      I have not seen Ask the Dust

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