Fried Green Tomatoes (United States, 1991)

A movie review by James Berardinelli
Fried Green Tomatoes Poster

Fried Green Tomatoes is a thoroughly enjoyable movie-going experience, replete with laughter, tears, triumph, and tragedy. Unfortunately, it has been sanitized and "Hollywoodized", with the relationship between the two 1930 female leads left ambiguous, and a few too many scenes going over-the-top to manipulate an emotional reaction. So, while providing two-plus hours worth of solid entertainment, director Jon Avnet's picture lacks the crucial ingredient which would have lifted it above the level of a tearjerker to that of the extraordinary.

The acting, however, can easily be counted among Fried Green Tomatoes' strengths. Especially noteworthy are the performances by Mary Stuart Masterson (as Idgie) and Mary-Louise Parker (as Ruth), who make their characters' improbable friendship come alive. Oscar-winners Kathy Bates and Jessica Tandy are fine, although their characters aren't as compelling, nor does their relationship have the same dynamics.

Some viewers have labeled this film a "woman's movie," which it is in the sense that the four protagonists are female. The themes and plot, however, are universal, as male audience members who aren't afraid of sentiment will discover. Fried Green Tomatoes is two stories in one, both of which ultimately work as well as they can, given what the film is trying to do. It should be noted, however, that the present-day scenes aren't as involving as those that take place in the 1930s. The structure is unusual, with the modern day scenes "framing" the flashbacks. Because the differences in the time periods are so marked, this may have not been the best way to handle the dual storylines. There are some awkward moments when the 1930s/1990s parallelism seems forced.

The greatest flaw of this movie is that Avnet tries relentlessly to get his viewers to reach for the box of tissues. A little manipulation is expected in any melodrama, but Fried Green Tomatoes goes overboard. That's not to say that the audience is likely to be weeping through the entire film, but Avnet isn't particularly subtle about what he's trying to do. Then again, for those who like a "good cry", this may be the perfect picture.

Because of its strong sense of character development, Fried Green Tomatoes touches a plethora of emotional chords. At times, it is gritty and inspirational, while still maintaining enough comedy to offset the less-comfortable instances of emotional upheaval. For mystery-lovers, there's even a murder thrown in. The film isn't perfect, but it has enough going for it to make for worthy entertainment.

Fried Green Tomatoes (United States, 1991)

Run Time: 2:19
U.S. Release Date: 1991-12-21
MPAA Rating: "PG-13" (Profanity, Adult Themes)
Genre: Drama
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1