In 1989 a movie was made of Robert Harling's play Steel Magnolias. It starred Sally Field, Olympia Dukakis, Shirley MacLaine, Dolly Parton, Daryl Hannah and Julia Roberts and was a huge success. Audiences responded to this story of a group of Southern women who laughed together and cried together as life handed them a variety of challenges in their lives. Now Neil Meron and Craig Zadan have gotten together a cast of black actresses to bring the story to the television screen. Queen Latifah heads the cast of the movie that will air on the Lifetime Channel.
The movie still holds the laughs and the tears within its plot and most of the time it is comparable to the 1989 movie. Queen Latifah is a strong presence as M'Lynn while both Phylicia Rashad and Alfre Woodard have some great moments as Clairee and Ouiser. Jill Scott provides softness as Truvy and Adepero Oduye is sweetly simple as Annelle. But it is Condola Rashad (Phylicia's daughter) who steals the show as Shelby, M'Lynn's daughter.
The plot concerns the life of M'Lynn. She is happy and content as the wife of Drum and mother of two sons. It is her daughter Shelby who causes stress on her heart. That is because Shelby is diabetic. She is marrying Jackson and wants to have children. Her doctor strongly advises her not to even try.
M'Lynn also has her best friends. They all gather at Truvy's beauty shop to get their hair done and to talk over their problems. Clairee, Ouiser, Annelle and Truvy always have M'Lynn's best interests at heart so they sympathize completely with M'Lynn's concerns about Shelby.
The movie seems a little rushed at times, and anyone who loved the 1989 movie will quibble over a few scenes that are missing. Queen Latifah's performance just doesn't seem to have the emotional pull of Fields. She is a strong, powerful-looking woman whereas Fields was a tiny delicate little thing. It also seems that Hannah got much more screen time as Annelle than Oduye does.
Steel Magnolias was a classic movie, and it is hard to recreate a classic. You can only hope to please those who have not seen the original. For those who remember the original the new creation just can't match up.
All involved with this new version of Steel Magnolias get an "A" for effort, but that 1989 group cast a large shadow. This new cast never stood a chance of matching the memory of the original.
Steel Magnolias premieres Sunday, October 7 at 9 p.m. on Lifetime.
Correction: Steel Magnolias premieres on Sunday, October 7 at 9 p.m. on Lifetime, not Showtime.