Terms of Endearment(1983) is a film that formulates into a beautiful broth of emotions that shape the relationship of a mother with her daughter. This thirty-five year old classic tells tales of a woman in her fifties-seemingly poised but equally anxious, who allows herself to fall in love, and a troubled marriage of her daughter and a college professor. Seasoned with bittersweet melodrama and offbeat comedy, this movie of surprises and unexpected turns are sure to make you shed some tears.
The opening scene introduces us to an anxious Aurora Greenway played by Shirley MacLaine, who is discovered to be a stylish, but stern woman. Her life revolves around her daughter Emma (Debra Winger), over whom she frets at every stage of life- from infancy -where she’d wake Emma up, fearing death in the crib, all through her ’’Be home by eleven o’clock’’ adolescence and much beyond her marriage to English teacher Flap Horton(Jeff Daniels) that took place regardless of her prophecy of a failed relationship.
Aurora, adamantly single despite many admirers, finds herself falling for her astronaut turned playboy neighbour Garrett Breedlove(Jack Nicholson) who is capable of turning any pleasant meeting disastrously obscene with absolute hilarity-be it a chat by the fence or a lunch date. Meanwhile Emma finds her mother’s prediction of a rocky marriage turning out to be true when Flap has an affair with a college student and she with a banker. The movie then takes an unexpected and heartbreaking turn, showcasing scenarios that are as raw as life itself.
Shirley Maclaine is a brilliant actress. Embodying Aurora Greenway to perfection, she will intimidate you with her raised eyebrows, surprise you with her shy giggles and even scare you with that tight-lipped locked jaw. Debra Winger breathes life into the simple character of Emma Horton. She elevates Emma from just a character in the movie to someone we can all relate to. The two actresses make up the perfect pair together-MacLaine personifying the yin of Aurora’s ego stiffened demeanor and Winger the yang of whimsical Emma.
And now for my absolute favourite- Jack Nicholson. He takes on the character of a garish philanderer and yet his way with words will leave you just as smitten as Aurora was when he said,’’ I’ll tell you, Aurora. I don’t know what it is about you, but you do bring out the devil in me.’’
Jeff Daniels plays Emma’s husband and although his character does impart some comic relief ,his role fails to get the attention of the audience as a supporting actor, as opposed to Nicholson.
Though, the film takes up a slow pace in the second half, a viewer from this generation will find a refreshingly simple form of cinematography and music – uncomplicated camera angles, a lone soundtrack for the entire film that barely merges with dialogue delivery ,”realist” style of scriptwriting and seemingly effortless acting make this film a well deserving Academy award and Golden Globe winner.