Fried Green Tomatoes (1991)
Directed by Jon Avnet
Based on the novel Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg
Screenplay by Carol Sobieski, Fannie Flagg, Jon Avnet
Starring: Kathy Bates, Jessica Tandy, Mary Stuart Masterson, Mary-Louise Parker
Evelyn Couch (Bates) is an unhappy housewife looking for purpose. She begins see life differently after she befriends a feisty older woman (Tandy) in a nursing home.
This film began as a novel titled Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe written by Fannie Flagg (Dolly) and published in 1987. The first attempt to adapt this novel for film came from Carol Sobieski (Annie (1982)). She attempted to bring the story to life as a musical, but later left the project. Jon Avnet (Red Corner), who directed the film, next took the project back to Fannie Flagg. She worked on the adaptation, but also abandoned the project. Jon Avnet would finish the screenplay, which received Flagg’s blessing. (He would not receive credit for his work on the script.) The cast for this film includes Jessica Tandy (Driving Miss Daisy), Kathy Bates (Midnight in Paris), Mary-Louise Parker (The Client), and Mary Stuart Masterson (At Close Range).
This story is nicely written, bringing the small town of Whistle Stop to life through the flashbacks of the aging Ninny Threadgoode. The sentimental nature of the story is balanced with the current day struggles Evelyn Couch. These two story lines have little in common but are used as a sort of parable for Couch to grow from. Unfortunately the current day events have been weakened because they’ve aged so poorly. In addition, the characters in the flashbacks are far more interesting. While the execution of the multiple story lines is a bit awkward the emotional content is strong enough to keep this one around. I would’ve preferred a film that focused mainly on the past events, since this is where the action happens in this one. Despite the issues in this one, the film earned an Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay.
The acting in this film redeems a number of story issues. The current day events are given something special thanks to the work from Jessica Tandy and Kathy Bates. The two have good chemistry with one another, and they create the kind of relationship that is honest and believable. Even when the material might not be the best, these two talented actresses bring out something special. Jessica Tandy was honored with an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress for her work in this one.
The flashbacks benefit from great performances by Mary Stuart Masterson and Mary-Louise Parker. These two women create a special chemistry that brings the bond between their characters to life in all the right ways. Regardless of how you read the relationship between the characters, these two women bring real love out in the scenes they share. They are also surrounded by talented actors that bring the era to life wonderfully. Chris O’Donnell, Cicely Tyson, and Stan Shaw are just a few of the talented people who make this one work.
This movie does a nice job bringing the two different eras to life. The costuming for the flashback moments does a nice job bringing a sense of authenticity to the film. Visually, this film might operate with a bit of rosy sentimentality, but the consistency in the visuals allows it to work. The movie also features a nice score composed by Thomas Newman (Skyfall). Overall, the movie is very dated, but works thanks to consistent attention to detail and a high level of production value.
This is a movie that fans of Terms of Endearment or A League of Their Own might want to check out. I would also suggest this one to fans of the stars in the movie. If you like emotional dramas, this is one for you. It might not hold up as well as many others from the period, but it’s still got a lot to offer. I give this one 3 out of 5 stars.