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I had forgotten how good Steel Magnolias was.

I had forgotten how it’s both very much a film of its age (check out the great Eighties hair!) but at the same time a film universal to all ages.

I had forgotten what it was like to watch Julia Roberts before she was Julia Roberts – according to the director there was resistance to casting her because she was considered not pretty enough. Imagine that?!!

I had forgotten how beautiful simplicity of plot was and how simplicity of plot does not mean simplicity of meaning.

I had forgotten how brilliantly these actors fit together and built on each others’ performances and breathed life into the beauty of simple friendship.

I had forgotten how much it made me cry. And how good it was when I did. And how funny it was, and how gentle. I had forgotten most of all that it is about the business of womankind.

I’m glad I was able to remind myself of these things.

The story is hung around the annual events that mark our year: Easter (with a wedding) , Christmas, Fourth of July, Halloween and back to Easter. How much of our lives are equally pinned on the annual cycle of birthdays, holidays and beginning of school term, all spinning around the bigger cycle of Weddings, Births and Deaths. And the every day business of women in community together plays a part in making these happen. But the biggest part of the every day business of women is talking to each other. And these women talk. They lift gossip to an art form – I’m not entirely comfortable with it, but it’s gossip without malice or harm. And it’s each others’ stories they’re most interested in – with even the most serious of these leavened with a gentle, honest and gracious humour.

Truvys-shop

Clairee: It looks like you’ve been driving nails into your arms. What’s going on here?
Shelby: Shall we tell them, Mama?
M’Lynn: I guess so. No point in keeping it a secret any longer. (beat) Shelby’s been driving nails into her arms.
 Shelby: It’s my dialysis

At it’s heart it’s a story of a Mother and daughter and this mother would do anything for this daughter. And because this is a true community of women, where everyone has a place, and though each one plays their role (The endower of beauty, the fount of wisdom, the grumpy old cow, the chameleon) each of them in their own way is also Shelby’s mother. Each one knows their steps in the grand dance of mothering Shelby, supporting her, releasing her, celebrating with her, worrying about her and mourning for her. And doing the same for each other in turn.

And it’s no accident that the scenes where the community of women comes together to be women is the beauty parlour. But then what happens there is not what it might seem. For the beauty of these women is enhanced not by Truvy’s skill with hair but by their mutual bond, by their kindness, by their wit. It is inner beauty that shines within the shop designed to create outer beauty – a cracking bit of irony.

So here are the women. Delicate as flowers and strong as steel. Not malicious or cruel, but sometimes telling it how it is. People who like each other, people who talk to each other, people who laugh with each other. And people who know that above all, Life goes on.

“You know I love ya more than My Luggage”. 🙂

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