I don’t know why I expected this movie to be very sad. It’s really not- sure her father dies in the first few minutes and her marriage falls apart, but there’s something very balanced and real about the writing. Things happen, but life goes on. — hahaha I wrote that as I was halfway through the movie before she got cancer and died. This movie is incredibly sad and I spent the last few minutes of it tearing up and crying.
The protagonist and her mother have a wonderful friendship- it’s probably the thing that makes me like this movie the most. It’s funny how their lives parallel each other, with the daughter having an affair and the mother taking up with the next door neighbor. It’s also what made the ending so heartbreaking. Also- what an annoying schlub her husband Flap ( played by Jeff Daniels) is. Every time he’s on screen, I just get the urge to punch him, even at the end when he redeemed (ish)!
This movie has made me admire Shirley MacLaine so much. So much. Her portrayal of a mother is real and flawed, as is her grief when she screamed for her daughter’s pain medication to be on time and when she realizes she doesn’t feel relieved after her death- it hurts just as badly.
And although the cancer is not a complete shock, it is a slap in the face in what, up until that point, was a relatively happy movie. So it’s only fitting that the ending is not overly sentimental- yes, it’s sad and mournful as the family gathers in black at Emma’s wake, but it’s hopeful. Aurora and the astronaut Garrett have reunited, she set to raise her three grandchildren, and already proven capable and kind with the oldest, Teddy- who goes with Garrett to check out his swimming pool as Aurora asks Melanie to scooch just ‘a little closer’. So my initial impression stands- it is the balanced and real writing (as well as superb acting) that makes this movie great.