In a career that has spanned more than fifty years, writer/director James L. Brooks has had success in both television and film. Having created Room 222 in 1969, Brooks teamed up with Allan Burns to create The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Rhoda, and Lou Grant. In 1978, Brooks was a co-creator of the sitcom Taxi. In 1979, Brooks wrote and co-produced the successful film Starting Over, but it would be his next film that would get everyone’s attention.
Based on the novel by Larry McMurtry, and released in 1983, Terms of Endearment celebrates its 40th anniversary with a 4K release. Written, directed, and produced by. Brooks, the story is set in the Houston area. The story begins with a series of scenes that set up the complex mother/daughter relationship between Aurora Greenway (Shirley MacLaine) and Emma Greenway Horton (Debra Winger). The story follows two paths, as Emma embarks on a new life, having married Flap Horton (Jeff Daniels) just out of high school, and the widowed Aurora finds herself wooed by several men, but ignores them. Tough and opinionated, Aurora meets her match in next door neighbor Garrett Breedlove (Jack Nicholson) a former astronaut with a taste for much younger women. Naturally, the two stories regularly intersect, as mother and daughter experience the joys and disappointments of everyday life.
While Aurora hasn’t dated anyone since her husband died, and seems to gravitate toward the negative in everything, Emma seems to always find the joy in life. As Flap teaches English at a series of Midwestern colleges, she manages to raise three kids on limited funds. Flap isn’t much help, given his eye for pretty coeds. Back in Houston, Aurora, who has always claimed to be appalled by him, finally agrees to go out on a date with the astronaut next door. Oddly attracted to him, it’s not long before Aurora finds herself in Garrett’s bed. Meanwhile, Emma has a sweet affair with a banker (John Lithgow) who treats her with respect.
As the years pass, the children are growing up. Flap gets a job in Nebraska as the head of an English department. Aurora’s relationship with the astronaut is going along quite nicely. Mother and daughter seem to understand each other a bit better; happy to have chatty phone calls regularly. All of this is told in a series of well written, expertly acted, and directed scenes that flow together effortlessly to create a believable and cohesive story.
When Emma is diagnosed with a malignant tumor, it knocks the wind out of the viewer. Even as it’s made clear that Emma will not survive her illness, Brooks allows the process to flow in a natural, realistic manner. Although the entire cast is superb, the movie belongs to Shirley MacLaine. Her performance as Aurora Greenway—which won her an Oscar for Best actress—has her on am emotional rollercoaster, but she’s never overly dramatic. Debra Winger also gives a strong performance. I challenge anyone not to be moved as she says an emotional goodbye to her children.
Terms of Endearment was a big winner at the Oscars, winning five awards including Best Picture, Director and Adapted Screenplay for producer/director/writer James L. Brooks, as well as Best Actress for Shirley MacLaine (beating out costar Debra Winger in the same category) and Supporting Actor for Jack Nicholson (over co-star John Lithgow). Some movies lose their emotional impact over time, but Terms of Endearment is just as powerful today as it was when it first hit theaters.
Reportedly sourced from a new 4K scan of the original 35mm negative and approved by James L. Brooks, the result is a notch above the previous Blu-ray release. While the color palette has never been a selling point of previous home video releases, there’s a noticeable improvement in color depth and delineation. The result is a more natural presentation, where wide angle location shots shine. HDR adds punch to the well-lit proceedings. Sharpness is strong with only a couple moments of inherent softness. The print is strong with no apparent flaws.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. track is solid. This dialogue heavy film is largely front centered. Dialogue is clear and concise throughout. The surrounds come into play occasionally for atmospherics and occasional music cues. There are crackles, pops, scratches to be found.
English SDH subtitles are included.
The following extras are available on the included Blu-ray of the film:
- Commentary by Director James L. Brooks, Co-Producer Penney Finkelman Cox and Production Designer Polly Platt: Ported over from 2001 DVD.
- NEW!! Film Focus with James L. Brooks
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