Terms of Endearment (1983) starring Shirley MacLaine, Debra Winger, Jack Nicholson, Danny DeVito, Jeff Daniels, John Lithgow directed by James L. Brooks Movie Review

Terms of Endearment (1983)   4/54/54/54/54/5

Jack Nicholson and Shirley MacLaine in Terms of Endearment

It's on my Terms

If the only romantic comedies you've watched are the mass produced sort which hit the big screen these days then "Terms of Endearment" is a shock to the system. It's not like any of these modern movies, it's one which revolves around relationships, dialogue and emotions and although it most certainly delivers romance and comedy it also delivers drama to take it to another level. It's not perfect as it veers towards the soap opera-ish at the end but with 11 Oscar nominations which it won 5 of it's not far off.

"Terms of Endearment" starts with a series of scenes which sets up the mother daughter relationship between Aurora (Shirley MacLaine - Two Mules for Sister Sara) and Emma (Debra Winger - An Officer and a Gentleman) from being a new baby to leaving the nest. What follows on from there is like two stories as we watch Emma embark on her new life with husband Flap (Jeff Daniels - RV: Runaway Vacation) and then Aurora's where she is courted by various men as well as her relationship with former astronaut Garrett Breedlove (Jack Nicholson - The Shining), an appropriate name for a man almost hell bent on dating younger women. The stories understandably intertwine at various points in line with the ups and downs in their lives as romance doesn't always run smoothly.

Debra Winger in Terms of Endearment

The thing is that there is a honest quality to things, when Emma and Flaps relationship hits a troubled patch it's sort of believable despite also feeling manufactured. It's not over played, not exaggerated to make you laugh or cry, it just is. That is one of the main reasons why "Terms of Endearment" is not only so good but also so different, it doesn't strive to manufacture an audience emotion it just goes through it's almost honesty, especially when it focuses on the relationship of Emma and Flap.

Of course there are the funny side to things and that sort of comes through the relationship between Aurora and Garrett. From Aurora's up tightness through to Garrett's more reckless ways, perfectly cast and brilliantly performed by Jack Nicholson, there is many a scene through out "Terms of Endearment" which will have you laughing. But again it's almost honest, when Garrett basically tells Aurora to loosen up it's the sort of thing you could expect Nicholson to say anyway. And the fact that Aurora does lose that up tightness when she starts sleeping with Garrett ushers in many humorous moments as well, especially when she starts acting young and in love rather then prim and proper.

Adding to this is the tenderness of the drama, the way the relationship works between Aurora and her daughter Emma. I hate to say it but their is an honesty to it, a believability about it as Aurora continues to call and almost control her daughter's life even when she has moved away from home.

It's not all perfect and the fact that it ends in an almost soap opera-ish manner makes it not so much weak but just slightly wrong. It still delivers the emotion of the storyline but the way the whole thing comes across just doesn't have that big movie feel about it. Which is a shame as it is a good ending, one worthy of the big movie touches it deserves.

Performance wise well there are a trio of stars that make "Terms of Endearment" work that being Debra Winger as Emma, Shirley MacLaine as her mother Aurora and the brilliant Jack Nicholson as former astronaut Garrett Breedlove. All 3 put in brilliant performances finding the balance between delivering comedy and drama which helps in making it feel honest. But they all interact so well, drawing you to them and their different relationships. They all make you laugh but they also make you feel for them and it's no wonder that both Shirley MacLaine and Jack Nicholson won best supporting performance Awards.

Aside from the this notable trio there are also some fine performances from the likes of Jeff Daniels as Flap Horton, John Lithgow as Sam Burns and also Danny DeVito as Vernon Dahlart.

What this all boils down to is that "Terms of Endearment" is most definitely a romantic comedy but one with a difference. It will make you laugh, smile, fall in love with the characters but it will also keep you watching through the way the various relationships grow. It's not perfect the ending whilst not weak has an uneasy soap opera feel to it, but the performances from Debra Winger, Shirley MacLaine and Jack Nicholson manage to make not just the ending but the whole movie very watch able.