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Film / How to Make an American Quilt

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A 1995 drama film adapted from Whitney Otto's novel of the same name, directed by Jocelyn Moorhouse and featuring an ensemble cast including Winona Ryder, Anne Bancroft, Ellen Burstyn, Kate Nelligan, Alfre Woodard, Maya Angelou, Samantha Mathis, Dermot Mulroney, Rip Torn, Claire Danes, and Mykelti Williamson.

Finn Dodd (Ryder) is a young graduate student, finishing a master's thesis and preparing for marriage to her fiancé Sam (Mulroney). But thoughts of the end of the free life, and a potential summer fling, intrude. She goes home to her grandmother, where — over the making of her wedding gift by a group of quilting-bee friends — laughter, bickering, love, and advice lead her toward a more open-eyed examination of her course.


This film contains the following tropes:

  • Abusive Parents:
    • Sophia's mother was emotionally abusive, stating she wasn't pretty enough to be single.
    • Sophia herself was a mild version of this to her eldest daughter when she discouraged the latter from going to college and that her younger brother should go. When her daughter calls out the hypocrisy, Sophia simply states that life isn't fair.
  • Amicable Exes: Finn's parents divorced and she narrates that they were still best friends. In the present, Finn's mother reveals that she and Finn's father plan to remarry.
  • Awful Wedded Life: While many of the marriages had issues, Sophia's was particularly bad. Her husband was always flitting off for work, leaving her all alone to raise their baby. Then, just up and left for good.
  • The Atoner: Hy after she sleeps with Glady's husband.
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  • Betty and Veronica: Finn is an official relationship with her fiancé Sam but is having some Commitment Issues and begins to develop an intense attraction to the mysterious and charming Leon. She has a brief fling with Leon but ultimately marries Sam.
  • Commitment Issues: Finn can't pick a topic to write for her thesis and constantly keeps changing. And Sam suspects this because she wanted to go stay with her grandmother and great aunt after he proposed. Her mother reasons out that Finn is just afraid.
  • Cool Big Sis: Marianna is this for Finn.
  • Disappeared Dad:
    • Downplayed with Finn. She knows who her father is but didn't have much contact with him during her childhood.
    • Marianna never met her father who impregnated Anna.
  • Double Standard: Sophia wanted to send her and Preston's younger son to college despite the fact their eldest daughter wanted to go and was the eldest.
  • Happily Married: Constance and Howell are probably the only couple whose relationship wasn't screwed up. They were very happy together. Until he died, leaving her a widow.
  • Ladykiller in Love: A gender-flipped example. Marianna had many lovers but believed she met her One True Love while in Paris. However, he mentioned he was married and she never got his name.
  • The Lost Lenore:
    • Hy had a deep love for her dying husband and only slept with Joe's husband out of impulse and sadness.
    • Constance had a similar deep love for her dead husband, Howell.
  • A Minor Kidroduction: The movie begins showing the child Finn while the older Finn narrates.
  • Mistaken for Cheating:
    • People think that Dean and Constance are sleeping together since they'd been spending time together after Howell died. While Dean offered, Constance said no.
    • Finn thinks Sam was having an affair when she dialed their number only for a woman to answer. It turns out he was staying with his brother because of plumbing issues in the house. Also, it's reasoned that Finn accidentally called the wrong number.
  • Nephewism:
    • Downplayed with Finn, as her mother would leave her in the care of her maternal grandmother and great aunt when she was with one of her boyfriends.
    • Played straight with Anna, whose personal flashback shows her being raised by her aunt.
  • No Antagonist: There's no Big Bad in the film. Just people dealing with their own past shames and regrets.
  • One True Love: Marianna believes that the man she met in Paris is her soul mate.
  • Parental Neglect: Finn's mother would often leave a young Finn in the care of Hy and Joe while she was with one of her boyfriends.
  • Raised by Grandparents: Downplayed. Finn had both her parents but her mother left her in the care of her maternal grandmother and great-aunt at times
  • Really Gets Around: Marianna has had many lovers.
  • Straw Feminist: Finn, at one point.