Terms of Endearment
"What do you mean? When do we fight?"
Terms like "studio" and "Hollywood" are anathema to many film lovers, and with good reason. The glossy sheen of so many middlebrow pictures wears thin, and their depictions of "real life" usually seem un-lived in and fatuous to any living being. The miracle of Terms of Endearment is to be a major studio production, with all the big stars and shiny trappings that implies, and yet also to be populated by real characters and small observations. Each of Shirley MacLaine, Debra Winger and Jack Nicholson have big, laugh-out-loud scenes and star turns, and yet their interactions are utterly believable. They are archetypes (the starched harridan with the concealed soft spot; the effervescent pixie struggling with adulthood; the aging lecher), and yet they imbue those archetypes with something more--as with the stereotypes one meets in person, upon closer inspection they are recognizably human, to some greater or lesser degree. The segues from high comedy to tragedy are never jarring, never forced. Like life, they may surprise, but the always seem natural. "Bittersweet" may be a near-toxic modifier, but it aptly describes life in its best and worst moments. To capture that on film is no small accomplishment.