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Retro Movie and Soundtrack Review: Steel Magnolias

Steel_Magnolias_t520Magnolias are an ancient flower that, though beautifully fragile and delicate looking, have stood the tests of time and the seasons of change over thousands of years. The women in this movie are all those things and more, well, except for the thousands of years old part.

“Laughter through tears is one of my favorite emotions,” exclaims Dolly Parton’s character, Truvy in the 1989 film Steel Magnolias. It’s one of my favorite emotions, too. Perhaps that’s why this movie is on the top of my “cry pile”. Whenever I need a good cry and a good laugh, I reach for this one 9 times out of 10.  In its 20th anniversary year, the cast, story and soundtrack continue to embody the title: Steel Magnolias.

Set in small town Louisiana, the story revolves around the lives and friendships of six women and Truvy’s Beauty Spot, a carport-turned-beauty-shop which serves as a great metaphor for the way these women bring beauty and depth to ordinary small town life. Written by Robert Harling, directed by Herbert Ross and produced by Ray Stark, it brings together a powerhouse cast of strong, beautiful, funny and passionate women who are all “steel magnolias” themselves.

Daryl Hannah as Annelle

Daryl Hannah as Annelle

The story opens at Truvy’s where Truvy (whom Dolly plays as sincere, wise and beautiful, inside and out) is calling out to her husband Spud (Sam Shepherd) to finish dying the Easter eggs for the community egg hunt, and is hiring a mysterious new graduate from the College of Hair, Annelle. Truvy tells one of her regular customers, Clairee (Olympia Dukakis), the former mayor’s wife, that she thinks “there’s a story there” since Annelle is married but living by herself on the other side of town in a boarding house. Daryl Hannah masterfully plays this mousy, nervous newcomer as she promises Truvy, “My personal tragedy will not interfere with my ability to do good hair.”

Julia Roberts and Dolly Parton

Julia Roberts and Dolly Parton

M’Lynn (the emotional bedrock of her family, played by Sally Field) and her daughter Shelby (Julia Roberts in an Oscar nominated performance for Best Supporting Actress) eventually make it to Truvy’s to get their hair done for Shelby’s wedding later that day and the Beauty Spot comes to life with the lively chatter of women sharing their excitement about the wedding. The new bride’s colors are Blush and Bashful, two different shades of pink that M’Lynn says make the church look like it’s been sprayed in Pepto-Bismol.

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