What I'm Listening To: Hearts on Fire by Cut Copy
I just saw the movie "Steel Magnolias" this weekend. Yes, that hilarious tearjerker chockablock full of cutesy one-liners that’s overacted by a bunch of big 1980s stars. Over the years I’ve witnessed multiple cultural references to this movie, but I’ve never had the resounding pleasure of seeing it. (Much like a lot of other movie classics I’ve missed, like “Miracle on 34th Street”, “Citizen Kane”, etc. But I’ve watched “Stepbrothers” like a billion times, so I think I’m okay.) So I leapt at the opportunity to see this classic gem on television this lovely Memorial Day weekend – oh, that and the car was stuck in the garage because the spring broke on the door and we couldn’t open it, so basically we were stuck at home anyway. Lots of fun!)
I missed the first 15 minutes, so it opens at the scene where everyone’s gathered in Truvy’s (what is Truvy short for, anyway? Truvilla?) home beauty salon getting ready for Shelby’s wedding. I am seriously worried about Julia Roberts as Shelby making it through the door with her massive wedding coif. It’s a tangled shellacked foot-high mass of poufy strawberry blonde spiral curls anchored by a banana clip!! Amazing! I know huge hair was just a fact of life in the 80s (just take a gander at my high school yearbook) but this ‘do is like the grand hair poohbah of 1989. Well, it was the end of a decade of excess -- what did you expect? Chua, even I had a fluffy spiral perm back in high school – which didn’t really coordinate well with my alternative punk rawk all-black wardrobe. Yeah, trying to straddle the line between being a sulky Cure-obsessed sad-sack and a member of Academic Decathalon was tough! Ha!
Speaking of wardrobes, it’s time once again for me to bitch about 80s and 90s fashion. I’ve included a photo of me at my high school graduation – which, coincidentally, was the same year Steel Magnolias came out. Why does it look like I borrowed my grandma’s burial outfit? BECAUSE CUTE TEEN OUTFITS DID NOT EXIST IN THE 80s. Oh, wait, yes they did -- if you wanted to look like a neon-splashed or Easter egg-hued spazasaurus. I blocked out the motivation as to why I chose to spend this monumental day in such a flowered monstrosity…probably to torture my classmates. I’m sure it was a success. (Okay, I had the best intentions of including a HS graduation photo, but this blog is not cooperating. Maybe later.)
So for two lovely hours movie viewers are exposed to what can only be termed as an 80s fashion horror show, a parade of yoke-collared pastel dresses, huge shoulder pads, sloppy boxy jackets with big patch pockets, and shapeless sack skirts. It was almost physically painful to see wealthy crank Ouisier in one of her trailer trash Chanel knock-offs consisting of matching jacket lining and print shell, or Shelby sporting a frighteningly fluffy Christmas sweater and stirrup pants. The only person wearing something decent is…can you believe it? Dolly Parton. Her vintage-y polka dotted church dress with the splashy ruffles was ah-dorable.
Bottom line, I don’t get why this film is such a female cult favorite. All it did for me is raise questions, like why did Shelby REFUSE the orange juice when she was obviously going into diabetic shock? Diabetes is a well-known and completely treatable disease even in the 80s, so why do they all act like Shelby’s some saccharine-coated time bomb? Why didn’t Truvy’s husband ever want to go anywhere? Why didn’t Dylan McDermott take his top off – at least once? How did frumpy geek Annelle go from hotsy-totsy makeover to religious nutbag in the space of two hours? Was she just trying on personalities for size til she found one that fit? I don’t know. And through the whole movie I’m trying to figure out for the life of me where I’ve seen Annelle’s boyfriend before – oh, right, he’s the creepy dude in those Mummy movies with smelly Brendan Fraiser (doesn’t he look like he smells bad? I know!!) Okay, turning off Shelby’s life support at the end was admittedly heart-wrenching and uh, maybe I did get a little misty-eyed. But snappy Southern comebacks and a couple of stray tears still doesn’t justify why this movie turns so many people’s crank. Most of the time it just made me roll my eyes, not wipe them.
From the ridiculous fashion and hair, the inane one-liners, the diabetic tragedy of organ donations (huh?) or gastrointestinal treat of an armadillo-shaped groom’s cake, viewers are forced to walk away from this movie feeling at least something heartwarming about friendship, funerals and bald dogs. Me, I just felt a little sick to my stomach. Sorry, y’all.