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Matt Gerson's "Angle on Movies"

Evening Star

Notable: Check out the sixth paragraph: 172 words! Not Matt's record, by any means, but definitely notable. Also: Matt likes to say "Aurora."
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I'm Matt Gerson with four most-tearfully-stretched-out full of pathos but admiring Angles nevertheless out of five for Evening Star, the continuation and culmination of the Terms of Endearment tale of Larry McMurtry.

Shirley MacLaine delivers an Oscar-nominated-to-be-sure star turn as the ageless, resolute, unquenchable spirit Aurora, who lights up the movie like the radiance of the sky and the shimmering northern lights of her nagging, overconcerned, holier-than-thou a bit, and always the kind of intruding presence that we need in this cruel world of betrayal and careers and selfishness, too often marking and driving the life of America from the Me Decade of the seventies on down.

Aurora, and the movie itself, in fact, is haunted by the death of Emma, played with bravado and spunk and off-the-screen chronic problems in the first Terms of Endearment by Debra Winger, who obviously isn't in the sequel.

Aurora, in this sequel, Evening Star, has to deal with the fallout: the sullen Tommy, the son who feels betrayed by life and cannot stay out of jail, and hates her after losing his mother Emma, and who makes Aurora and her quest to make him love someone again a miserable journey into rejection, as countless trips to the prison make him seem to hate her all the more. We wonder if he blames her for losing his mother or what the genuine bug in Tommy's insides is--we just don't know.

Then there's Juliette Lewis playing Melanie, Emma's daughter, another professional loser with men who cheat, bouncing around with a self-loving fantasizer of male modelhood boyfriend, who drives a borrowed Ferrari and dreams of dragging poor Melanie into victimhood in L.A. in his fantasy of model-turned-actor fame, which ends when Melanie catches him in bed several times with various girlfriends.

Aurora (Shirley MacLaine) is basically a national treasure, a female model of wholeness, who endures the tragic loss of first Emma, then the jailbird rages and wayward resentments of both Tommy (George Newburn) and Melanie (Juliette Lewis), who make her life the kind of challenge every late-model-aged lady of substance, caring and a sense of love, needs, like a tramp like Patsy Carpenter for a friend (Miranda Richardson), who grabs what's left of Aurora's loves and new boyfriend counselor and feel-good, put up a shingle and work out your problems Jerry Bruckner (played by Apollo 13's Bill Paxton), so Aurora, as if she needed it, must also joust and battle this Patsy, who unlike her name is a witch of a rich Texas oil money's divorcee, who's ready for active stealing of any of Aurora's intendeds, due to some hidden resentment that Aurora, not she, got to take care of the two kids Emma left when she died, while in addition Patsy is completely inept with her own kids, who never appear.

Evening Star showcases the "abideth earth mother" type (Shirley MacLaine) with a modern twist (Aurora) and gives her a Job-like task of saving the jailbird Tommy and the fly-by-night Melanie, children of her beloved Emma, who desperately need her inside and never ever will admit anything but contempt for poor, organize everyone's life Aurora but her own.

From Turning Point to Madame Souzatska, Postcards from the Edge to Steel Magnolias, Shirley MacLaine has never uttered an untrue word nor spoken what wasn't deserved, if not always appropriate at the time in her curmudgeonish tell-all way. She embodies sustenance, wit and wiseness that is the best part of women, if not giving an inch in her critical nature, we all know that it stems from love and a caring place. She dazzles us here with power and survival and dignity and resolve, losing the flaky Jerry to barracuda and polished-dressed and bayonet-like nose ready to pounce Patsy, and the love of her life (Jack Nicholson's Garrett), the astronaut in the sky, dancing around instead of with her, now happily married to a young, young girl, reappears to tell her something important.

And look for Marion Ross of Happy Days in a possible Supporting Oscar-worthy turn as Rosie, the housekeeper who isn't afraid to an Aurora whose dissecting honesty is ever-present and who often cares for fixing and cataloguing others' lives while the Rosie in the house, who runs the house, is ignored and uncared-for under the same roof that Aurora tries to patch up her wayward grandkids in. Her spunk was something we didn't see and her depth of feelings not shared in TV-land.

Evening Star is Oscar-powered earth mother Shirley MacLaine straightening up the world, lost in too many deaths: Emma, Rosie, and finally facing her own with style and class all her own.

I'm Matt Gerson and I give Evening Star four out of five Angles for a magnificently maudlin tale of modern survival over death and despair in the turmoil of families never formed that Aurora tries to save.


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