Troubled housewife Evelyn Counch, whose marriage is in tatters, forms an unlikely friendship with an old lady named Ninny Threadgoode. Ninny proceeds to tell her the story of Idgie from 1920s Alabama, a tale which inspires Evelyn to take hold of her life.
A so-called chick flick, although that is such a demeaning tag, with literary heritage (author Fannie Flagg co-wrote the screenplay). With the breathing space of interesting characters and a clever story-in-a story structure, makes for one of the better entries in the ill-served sub-genre. One of its main qualities is that it’s not strictly about romance, being far concerned with female empowerment. No one’s burning their bras and preaching from the gospel according of Andrea Dworkin, but there amongst the gentle flow of its Sapphic currents, the film is a tribute to enduring sisterhood.
In the present day this is seen in the intuitive bond between broken housewife Kathy Bates (too brusque to truly convince as a downtrodden puddle of womanhood) getting some down-home nurturing from Jessica Tandy’s antique Southern Belle. Her storytelling accesses the friendship between tomboy Mary Stuart-Masterson and fine femininity of Mary-Louise Parker. Surprisingly, it is the younger actresses who make the biggest impression.
Masterson, an underrated actress, works the free-spirit cliché with a sense of furious entitlement: drinking, gambling, pointlessly pursuing male weakness as a salvation from the chains of destiny. Never has housewifery been depicted with such brutality, which is partly Flagg’s theme — break those prescribed social bonds.
And only amongst the staunch strictures of the patriarchal Deep South, is the battle for non-conformity most fraught. Which also means we’ve got to fitfully journey over the bumpy camber of Klansman, downtrodden blacks, lynch mobs and brutal husbands. As the foreground is keenly intelligent, the background is a bland Whistle Stop tour of gruelling Southern life.
The tale from the past is very nostalgic, heartwarming and mouth-watering and all, as Idgie and Ruth cook up a storm, are kindly to their black domestics and stand up to piggy men while events fitfully progress to a courtroom climax. And nasterson is a peach. But the best bits belong to Bates as her dreary Evelyn raises her conciousness, lowers her weight and starts speaking her mind. It's a nice, pleasant celebration of friendship, but without much meat to chew on.