Film: Steel Magnolias

1989 film cast. From the back left: Annelle, Ouiser, Clairee, Shelby, Truvy and M'Lynn

Steel Magnolias is a 1989 Dramedy film starring Sally Field, Shirley MacLaine, Olympia Dukakis, Dolly Parton, Daryl Hannah, and Julia Roberts. It is adapted from the 1987 off-Broadway play of the same name by Robert Harling. A 2012 made for television remake with an all African American cast was made by Lifetime.

The story revolves around the lives of the employees and patrons of Truvy's Beauty Parlor in Louisiana. The place is run by Truvy Jones (Parton) who has recently hired shy Annelle Dupuy (Hannah). Among the regular customers (and friends of Truvy's) are Ouiser Boudreaux (Mclane), a rich cranky widow; Clairee Belcher (Dukakis) who is also a widow and enjoys taking cracks at the grumpy Ouiser; M'Lynn Eatenton (Field) and her soon to be married daughter Shelby (Roberts). Shelby has a form of diabetes which has weakened her body. Despite this, she is considering having a child once she is married. M'Lynn struggles with letting her daughter living her own life and trying to prevent her from causing more damage to her body.

This film provides examples of:

  • Adaptation-Induced Plot Hole: In the film version, Jackson and Drummond are watching over Shelby when the plug is pulled. However, the dialog is true to the play, and M'Lynn claims that they couldn't handle it and left. It's a key plot hole because M'Lynn states that men are supposed to be made of steel, but weren't.
    • However, both Jackson and Drummond leave just prior to Shelby actually slipping away. M'Lynn was the only one beside her daughter when she died.
  • Beauty Inversion: The producers told Daryl Hannah they weren't sure she could play Annelle, saying she was too attractive. She showed up for her audition looking as frumpy as she could, and the security guard wouldn't let her in because he didn't recognize her.
  • Babies Ever After/Birth/Death Juxtaposition: Annelle announces her pregnancy after Shelby's funeral and goes into labor as the film ends.
  • Blasphemous Boast: Ouiser tells Shelby that "The only reason people are nice to me is because I have more money than God."
  • Chatty Hairdresser: Truvy.
  • Converse with the Unconscious: M'Lynn talks to her daughter trying to get her to wake up from her diabetic coma. She ultimately dies.
  • Covert Pervert: Ouiser steals glances at the young high school flesh through her mirror.
  • Dead Guy Junior: After Shelby's funeral, Annelle announces her pregnancy to the other ladies and tells M'Lynn that the baby will be named after Shelby, out of thanks for inviting her to the wedding where she met her husband.
  • Deadpan Snarker: M'Lynn.
    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.
    • Truvy:
    "Nicest thing I can say about her is, all of her tattoos are spelled correctly."
    • Ouiser:
    "He's a real gentleman. I bet he takes the dishes out of the sink before he pees in it."
    • After Annelle gets off a good snap at Ouiser, Clairee approves, "Very good, Annelle! Spoken like a true smart-ass!"
  • Fanservice Extra: Multiple male examples. The "colour announcer" scene... which just happened to be in a sports team's changing room, and thus meant the appearance of several naked men.
  • Fashion Hurts: Truvy has this to say about shoes: "In a good shoe, I wear a size six, but a seven feels so good, I buy a size eight." Meaning she's a size eight but will squeeze down to a six for the right shoe.
  • Happy Holidays Dress: The "Miss Merry Christmas" wears a long, red dress with a white faux fur neckline and muff.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Clairee and Ouiser, paired with Vitriolic Best Buds, given the way they're always sniping at each other.
  • I Knew It: invoked Annelle's reaction to Ouiser admitting she prays. Ouiser doesn't react well to her gloat.
  • Misplaced-Names Poster: Six names, none of which are over the person to which they belong.
  • Mood Whiplash: My'Lynn shouting at her daughter's funeral is turned comedic when Clairee says that My'Lynn should hit Ouiser to feel better.
    Clairee: M'Lynn, you just missed the chance of a lifetime! Half of Chiquapin Parish'd give their eye teeth to take a whack at Ouiser!
  • Pink Means Feminine:
    Shelby: Pink is my signature color.
    • Insistent Terminology:
      Shelby: My colors are "blush" and "bashful."
      M'Lynn: Her colors are "pink" and pink."
      Shelby: My colors are "blush" and "bashful" Mama!
  • Pitbull Dates Puppy: Owen and Ouiser. He doesn't seem to mind, though.
    • It's strongly hinted that Ouiser is softer while dating Owen offscreen.
  • Playing Gertrude: 42 year old (and looking much younger) Queen Latifah, who plays M'Lynn in the remake, is only 17 years older than Condola Rashad, who played Shelby, forcing viewers to essentially assume that she was a teen mom.
  • Please Wake Up: A prolonged version of this occurs when M'Lynn Eatonton is trying to rouse Shelby when she's in the hospital after her final diabetic episode. Not long after, she's taken off life support.
  • Race Lift: The remake
  • Slice of Life: A lot of scenes are basically this, fitting a theme directly mentioned near the end, that "Life goes on".
  • Tearful Smile: "Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion."