An adaptation of Josephine Humphreys' novel written, produced and directed by the team that steered the Oscar-winning Driving Miss Daisy, this is another prettily photographed, nicely scored, sentimental tale of eccentric but lovable Southerners, but one which mines achingly familiar emotional territory.
Albert Finney, giving it plenty of Deep South corn pone and honey-glazed ham, is "knocked off his perch" when his wife (Jill Clayburgh in little more than a cameo) flies the coop, leaving him in the fiercely possessive, protective care of his on-the-brink-of-womanhood daughter Lucille (Erbe). Add his madcap eldest (Amis) and her new husband (MacLachlan), Lucille's would-be boyfriend (Hawke) and lonely neighbour Piper Laurie into the equation and the sum is a gentle, if slight, family drama that never quite delivers the promised tears or smiles, despite its attractive players.
Running through Lucille's maturation conflicts there is a consistent lightness of tone that makes this watchable enough but illustrates the script's failure to get under the rather mannered doings of its cliched characters. Beginning with yellow-to-amber shots of memorabilia and a drawling voice-over which reminisces "That was the year that. . .", this was presumably something of a breather for director Beresford coming after the dour and vastly superior Black Robe, but as one of the characters accurately observes, "It could be mo' better and some worse."