Defining the ‘Terms of Endearment’

The terms are tough love. The kind where you wake up your baby because you think she’s dead. The kind where you tell your daughter that it’d be a mistake to marry her fiancee the night before her wedding. The kind where you complain that you can’t be a grandmother when your daughter says she’s pregnant with her first child.

But even when those are the terms, it’s not hard to see the love between Aurora Greenway (Shirley MacLaine) and her daughter Emma Horton (Debra Winger).

Written and directed by James L. Brooks based on Larry McMurtry’s novel, “Terms of Endearment” (1983) is a wonderful film about life and love. At the heart of the film is a mother and daughter duo.

Aurora’s a surly Texas widow who spends her pastime complaining to her daughter and entertaining boring gentlemen suitors.

Her daughter Emma, on the other hand, is full of youthful optimism. When Emma marries her husband, Flap Horton (Jeff Daniels), and moves away to Des Moines, Iowa, their relationship evolves from that of a mother and daughter to that of friends. Emma begins settling in her role as a stay-at-home mom of two boys and a girl, while Aurora begins eying her neighbor, a promiscuous drunken astronaut by the name of Garrett Breedlove (Jack Nicholson). As distance makes the heart grow fonder, they become each other’s lifeline, trading gossip, advice and insults over the years.

MacLaine and Winger are wonderful as Aurora and Emma, reflecting the natural animosity between a mother and daughter. “I always think of us as fighting,” says Aurora.

And sure they fight — as most families do, but love powers each punch.

Aurora’s hard frown and cold stare are met with Emma’s open admiration and search for approval.

“Get yourself a decent maternity dress,” Aurora fires when Emma catches her mother letting go of their hug first.

Despite the underhanded comments, there’s a natural symbiosis in their relationship. Emma is the first person Aurora calls when she wants to talk about her next-door neighbor. Emma stays at Aurora’s house for a couple days when she encounters marital problems. And most importantly, when there’s a common enemy, they’re batting for each other.

“Terms of Endearment” is a sentimental film that will make you both laugh and cry. Perhaps you see yourself as the mother or daughter. Or perhaps your dad challenged with you a similar tough upbringing. Whatever the terms are, Brooks’ film will make you want to hold your loved ones just a little tighter as you go to bed tonight.

“Terms of Endearment” was written and directed by James L Brooks based on Larry McMurtry’s novel. It won the 1984 Academy Award for best picture. Shirley MacLaine won best actress for her leading role and Jack Nicholson won best actor for a supporting role. Brooks was best director and best screenplay based on another medium. 

 

 

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