To call Terms of Endearment a “tearjerker” is to announce the stunning revelation that the sky is blue. Seriously, this film grabs a hold of your heartstrings and tugs, and tugs, and tugs, pulling as hard as it can, and it never lets go, all the way to the end. And right when you think you’ve shed your last tear, the film adds another extra weight with yet another plot development, and you can feel it start to well up inside all over again. Well, most of you, anyway; to some, this will likely be so bleedingly obvious in its attempts to choke you up that it warrants a sardonic snicker and a shake of the head. But, even putting the obvious aspects aside, the film is quite good when you really get down to it.
Shirley MacLaine and Debra Winger are Aurora and Emma Greenway, a mother-daughter pair that grow up together in Houston, and the film can pretty much be summed up as following these two women as they live their lives, through various life-changing events and happenings. Emma, for instance, marries Flap Horton right out of high school, against her mother’s wishes, and the couple eventually move to Iowa largely due to Flap accepting a teaching position there, but also to basically be free from under Aurora’s shadow. Aurora, meanwhile, meets her next-door neighbor, womanizing astronaut Garrett Breedlove, played by Jack Nicholson, and after an initial period of misunderstanding and head-butting, they find themselves entering a relationship. Much like my previous review, this film’s major selling points are the script and the performances, which are both excellent. MacLaine and Nicholson would go on to win Oscars for Actress and Supporting Actor, which after seeing them in this one I was perfectly all right with them winning. Really, all I can say about the various aspects that made this film is that they are solid all around; it was just the way the film was so obviously tugging at the heartstrings that annoyed me, probably even more so because the film was so damn successful at it. The one other aspect I should make note of is the music; my God, the music. I don’t think I’ve ever heard such a sappily cheerful musical score in all my life, and this is after seeing two musicals by Jacques Demy.
Here’s where I ended up after Terms of Endearment: I liked it, thought it was well done, end stop. I just really don’t think this film has the staying power of a Best Picture winner, and by that I mean that I will likely all but forget this film in a year or so. Again, that’s not to say the film wasn’t good, because it was, even through the film’s desperate attempt to wring a few more tears out of you, but to me, a Best Picture winner should be one that can stand as a testament to that year’s filmmaking, and while, looking over the other nominees, Terms of Endearment was the obvious choice in that matter, it was also too obvious of a choice. Who knows; maybe in 50 years, people will still look back on Terms of Endearment as the best of 1983. I just don’t think that I’ll end up being one of them.
Arbitrary Rating: 7/10