Aurora Greenway returns as a granny wracked by the problems of her grandchildren. In an effort to escape she goes for therapy, only to embark on an affair with her therapist.
Trouper Shirley MacLaine reprises the role of Houston control freak Aurora Greenway that secured her Best Actress honours in 1983's multiple Oscar-winning, multiple hanky Terms Of Endearment. In this sequel, humour and heartache are again combined as we learn how the smothering Aurora has got on with rearing her dead daughter's three children and with her continued quest for the love of her life.
Opening in 1988, Aurora is depressed by the tribulations of her grandchildren, one of whom is in prison, while the youngest, Melanie (Lewis), is wrapped up in a scumbag boyfriend and hates her. Aurora enters therapy with counsellor Jerry (Paxton) and embarks on an affair with him, inflicting on us the utterly grotesque spectacle of MacLaine getting it on with the boyish Paxton. Ick!
If you can survive that ordeal, this patchy affair does have some funny and fine scenes of love, hate, neurosis and reconciliation among family and friends. What really makes it is a batch of great support, including the last appearance of the late Ben Johnson, a delicious turn from Miranda Richardson, and a superb performance from Marion Ross (remember Richie's mom in Happy Days?) as Aurora's long-suffering maid and confidante, Rosie. And two hours in, Jack Nicholson finally ambles on as ex-astronaut Garrett Breedlove for a reflective reunion with Aurora that briefly lifts the film to its predecessor's level and fills us with regret that he didn't come sooner. For even as an old bag, MacLaine's spunky Aurora is an irritating package of vanity and self-absorption - although she is splendid in a crisis, and the plot certainly teems with them - making her a wearing solo in the spotlight.
Writer Harling (Steel Magnolias, The First Wives Club) makes his directorial debut without having learned how to end a movie. This one has a great ending that isn't after all, and lurches on through a series of tear-jerking addenda that dispatch the audience as exhausted and weepy as the characters who are still standing.
Nicholson's appearance briefly lifts the film to the bar set by its predecessor, it's just a shame he's not in it earlier.