Terms of Endearment (1983)

“Why should I be happy about being a GRANDMOTHER?”

Terms of Endearment is an equally funny and heartbreaking snapshot of life that follows Aurora and her daughter Emma for many years, through relationships, births and sickness.  It’s a story about humans that is so real it manages to make the characters seem like your family in just two short hours.  A box of tissues is highly advised.

Films with a single writer and director sometimes tend to be a cut above other films because the writer, also being the director, can execute his visions perfectly.  This is the case with James L. Brooks.  Brooks’ screenplay is masterful and well worth the Oscar he won for it.  It’s sad and tearjerking while still managing to be witty and light.  The characters are written so well from the crude yet likable Garrett to the endearing Aurora and the cheerful Emma.  Brooks’ directing creates a perfect flow and a captivating connection between the audience and the story that makes you laugh and cry along with the characters.

The story explores relationships and how they fare in good times and bad; from husband and wife, boyfriend and girlfriend and mother and children.  At the heart of the film is the relationship between mother and daughter Aurora and Emma.  Shirley MacLaine as Aurora and Debra Winger as Emma create a remarkably strong onscreen bond that is obvious even in times of stress; their chemistry is touching to watch.

MacLaine, who won the Academy Award for best actress, shines at the core of the film as she displays at one moment comical flirtatious contempt with Garrett (Jack Nicholson) and at the next anguished fury at seeing her daughter in pain.  Alongside MacLaine, Jack Nicholson is perfect for the role of Aurora’s astronaut love interest who is oddly charming despite his many flaws.  Winger also gives an excellent performance as her character struggles with a troubled marriage, three young children and cancer.  Winger displays remarkable and convincing acting as she lies on her deathbed and says goodbye to her two sons in a scene that is yanks sharply on the heartstrings to the point of being difficult to watch.

Terms of Endearment swept the 1984 Academy Awards, taking home a total of five wins out of eleven nominations (including best picture) all of which were well earned.  Terms of Endearment is a classic and rare in that very few films come along that are so real.  With a touchingly accurate picture of life, love, loss, it’s a gentle reminder to never take one moment, one relationship for granted.  Whether you’re a parent, a spouse, a grandparent or a child, whatever roles and walks of life you belong to, Terms of Endearment has the ability to touch something deep inside, hitting nerves and brining forth emotions films rarely do.


Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/10


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5 thoughts on “Terms of Endearment (1983)

  1. So I’m a little shocked someone else watched (and wrote about) Terms of Endearment the same week I did. I figured it would be a pretty lonely review.
    I went into this under extreme pressure as it’s one of my wife’s favorites, and I let her down a little at the halfway point when I said I didn’t quite get it.
    Then the second half kicked in, and by the end I was converted. While I don’t think Brooks’ script or direction was perfect, somehow the result ends on a perfect note.
    https://mondaymorningmoviequarterback.wordpress.com/2016/07/22/terms-of-endearment-rises-above-awkward-mechanics/

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love your review, although we differ in opinion on the idea of “writer/director” successes. Most directors don’t seem to understand story structure as well as they should. Brooks, fortunately, is one of those who does. This is a great film and I’m glad you liked it as much as I did.

    Liked by 1 person

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