This week for Beauty in the Movies, we are celebrating lonely housewives, epic friendships, southern cooking, and much more in the 1991 film “Fried Green Tomatoes”, based on the novel Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg. Thanks to Lizzy Sise for the fabulous recommendation!
I hadn’t watched this movie in a while, and since it seemed very appropriate to watch in early summer, I was happy to find it available on streaming Netflix and re-watch it last night. This movie more than meets the requirements of The Bechdel Test, so if you haven’t seen it, add it to your must-see list now, it’s worth it!
The movie centers around the friendships of two sets of women in Alabama, one pair in the 1930’s, Idgie (Mary Stuart Masterson) and Ruth (Mary-Louise Parker), and the other a middle-aged woman who befriends an elderly woman in a nursing home in the 1980s.
Evelyn Couch (Kathy Bates) plays the arch-typical lonely, ignored housewife. While her husband is watching sports, and only acknowledging her for the “nice scald” on her fried chicken, Evelyn is going through “the change” and feeling alienated by her more liberated peers. When she meets Ninny Threadgoode (Jessica Tandy) while visiting her husband’s awful aunt at a nursing home, the stories Ninny relates to her cement a bond between the two women, and inspire Evelyn to take back control of her life.
Over a series of visits, Ninny recounts the story of Idgie Threadgoode and Ruth Jamison to Evelyn. Idgie is fearless, she charms bees, jumps from trains, plays poker with the town sheriff, and lives with a staggering sense of compassion and generosity for those around her. Ruth is a perfect southern lady, a woman of faith and family duty, she is brought in by Idgie’s mother to act as a calming influence. Of course it’s Idgie’s contagious spirit that infects Ruth, and the two form an unbreakable friendship. After Idgie liberates Ruth from her abusive husband, the two open a cafe that serves as the heart of the small town of Whistle Stop, while serving the best BBQ and fried green tomatoes in the state. I don’t want to give anything else away in case anyone hasn’t seen the film, but there are also elements of murder and mystery that drive the plot.
According to the Wikipedia page the novel features much stronger lesbian overtones, the film received a lot of criticism for toning down the relationship between Ruth and Idgie. While I understand that for some that would be disappointing, I like that the relationship is ambiguous, because whether they’re lovers or not, they’re friends, and it seems as though very few films show the friendship that is inherent in love. I would think the strongest relationships are between two people who are best friends, no matter their sex, but strangely it is very rare for a romance to focus on that aspect of a relationship.
A great deal of this film’s success is owed to the amazing performances. All four of the leads are fleshed out, we feel their heartbreak, we relate to them, and most of all they inspire us. Near the end of the film Ninny says to Evelyn “Do you know what I think the most important thing in life is?” Evelyn replies, “no, what?” Ninny answers,”friends, best friends”. I don’t know why that gets me all misty, maybe because Jessica Tandy is so good, but it’s also such a simple truth. The friendships we have, whether they are with our girlfriends, our family, or our husbands, are what get us through this life, they inspire us, they encourage us, and as this film shows, they can transcend time, and even death.
I’ve always been inspired by the fashion’s of Idgie and Ruth in this film. It’s wonderful the way the costumes are so perfectly in tune with their characters. From the 1930’s menswear that Idgie favors to Ruth’s frilly, floral, dresses. I love the way the two styles play off each other so well. Here’s the shopping guide for the collage if you want to get the look. I seriously want that square necked dress from modcloth, so cute!
Fried Green Fashions by justinez
55 GBP – stylecompare.co.uk
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90 AUD – generalpants.com.au