While Graduate student Finn (Ryder) dithers over marital commitment to her would-be fiance (Mulroney) and labours over her thesis on womens' handicrafts, her grandmother (Bancroft), great aunt (Burstyn) and their friends undertake a bridal quilt, pouring out the stories of their youths, family histories and loves as they stitch, the individual patches they create symbolising their life experiences.
This females' field day, based on the novel by Whitney Otto, is one of the nicest and the best crafted of the genre, although its blatant similarities to The Joy Luck Club will court obvious comparisons to the superior Wayne Wang film.
Graduate student Finn (Ryder) retreats for the summer to the country home where her grandmother (Burstyn) and great-aunt (Bancroft) suppress a long-running, eccentric feud and make traditional patchwork quilts with a group of friends. The sewing circle includes celebrated authoress/ poet Maya Angelou as their former maid, the artistic matriarch to whom they now all defer, Alfre Woodard as her sophisticated daughter, Jean Simmons and Kate Nelligan. Their tales are enacted by a major collection of actresses from Little Women's Claire Danes and Samantha Mathis, to venerable Esther Rolle. And when she isn't being diverted by a devastatingly sexy neighbour (Johnathon Schaech), Finn learns some useful and moving tips about womens' eternal quest for love and fulfilment.
The weight given to some of these interweaving stories and denied others makes for an occasionally uneven but colourful and busy overall design. Many a man will run a mile to sit this one out in a pub, but with much gentler female bonding on offer, this proves to be a perfect candidate for a matinee with mother.