Film / Steel Magnolias

http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/1989MovieCastOfSteelMagnolias_361.JPG
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 main characters are:

  • M'Lynn Eatenton: A long-suffering housewife and mother. Caring and supportive, but often protective and stern. Played by Sally Field.
  • Shelby Latchery: M'Lynn's daughter, who gets married at the start of the story. She's bouncy and upbeat, but has health complications thanks to her diabetes. Played by Julia Roberts.
  • Truvy Jones: The owner of the beauty parlor. Living by the words, "There's no such thing as natural beauty", Truvy often indulges in gossip with her patrons, and prides herself on being the best hairdresser around. Played by Dolly Parton.
  • Annelle Dupuy: The newest hairstylist at Truvy's, desperate for a job after her husband ran out on her. Shy and timid, but starts to come out of her shell with Truvy's help. Played by Daryl Hannah.
  • Ouiser Boudreaux: A very wealthy, very sarcastic, very foul-tempered widow, who seems to live for her dog and to snark at the others. Played by Shirley MacLaine.
  • Clairee Belcher: Another widow. Cheerful and friendly, but snarky enough to hold her own against Ousier, her best friend. Played by Olympia Dukakis.

The plot kicks off on Shelby's wedding day, when Annelle first comes to town and befriends the other five women. Together, the six women experience love, joy, sadness, loss and friendship as their lives begin to change all around them. Perhaps the most drastic change is when Shelby becomes pregnant, despite her doctor advising her against it due to her health. M'Lynn is terrified, and doesn't want Shelby to put her body through any more, but Shelby is determined to have her baby, realizing that no judge will let someone with her health records adopt one. M'Lynn knows she can't stop her, but worries that the risk may simply be too high.


This film provides examples of:

  • Adaptation Expansion: The original stage play was a bit shorter than the movie, only showed the core six characters (Truvy, M'Lynn, Shelby, Anelle, Clairee, and Ouiser), with everyone else being offstage, but discussed. It also only took place in one setting: the beauty shop. The movie also added a couple extra scenes of dialogue that didn't occur in the play.
  • 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.
  • Adult Fear: Having to bury one's child.
  • Babies Ever After/Birth/Death Juxtaposition: Annelle announces her pregnancy after Shelby's funeral and goes into labor as the film ends.
  • 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.
  • Blasphemous Boast: Ouiser tells Shelby that "The only reason people are nice to me is because I have more money than God."
  • Broken Bird: Annelle at the beginning is very emotional and shy, and clearly still reeling from her husband abandoning her.
  • 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.
  • Jerkass Realization: The normally short-tempered and sarcastic Ouiser makes a snide comment about how the sooner her body breaks down and she dies, the better. Then, she finds out Shelby's body really is breaking down, and she obviously feels terrible, and apologizes to Shelby.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Ouiser is rude, hotheaded, sarcastic and acts like she's Surrounded by Idiots. However, when push comes to shove, she really does care deeply for the other five, and every now and then, she even acts like it. Lampshaded by a conversation after Ouiser makes a particularly badly-timed snide remark.
    Ouiser: I'm sorry, Shelby. You know better than to listen to anything I say.
    Shelby: Oh, Miss Ousier, don't even worry about it.
    Ouiser: ...I'm a terrible person...
    Clairee: Oh, you are not, Ousier. You'd give that dog of yours a kidney if he needed one.
  • Misplaced-Names Poster: Six names, none of which are over the person to which they belong.
  • Mood Whiplash: M'Lynn shouting at her daughter's funeral is turned comedic when Clairee says that M'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!
  • New Old Flame: Ouiser's ex, Owen. "He was a good man. But I managed to run him off and marry one of two total deadbeats." Shelby ends up going to the same church as him, and makes it her mission to get him and Ousier together.
  • Outliving One's Offspring:
    • Truvy mentions that Ruth Robeline's son was killed in Vietnam.
    • M'Lynn outlives her daughter Shelby.
  • Parental Substitute: Truvy to Annelle, to the point where she refers to her as her "semi-daughter."
  • Pet the Dog: There are times when Ousier shows she has a heart — her adoration of her dog, Rhett, for instance, and her genuine sympathy towards Annelle when she finds out Annelle's husband abandoned her. She also is very happy for Shelby when she has her baby, and grieves with the other when Shelby passes away.
  • 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".
  • Steel Eardrums: Averted with Drum Eatenton when he launches a firecracker into a tree to scare away the birds for Shelby's reception. He winds up missing a few cues during the wedding, such as when to walk Shelby down the aisle and what the father of the the bride is supposed to say when the pastor says "who gives this woman in marriage?" Drum impulsively says "Her mother and I do!"
  • Tearful Smile: "Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion."
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Ouiser with the other five, especially Clairee. She snarks at them and they all snark right back, but it's clear that they do genuinely consider her a friend. And in Ousier's own words...
    Ouiser: You may not believe it, but these are the dearest friends I have in this town.
  • World of Snark: Everyone is a Deadpan Snarker in this movie.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Film/SteelMagnolias