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Christmas Movie Round Up

by Gary Johnson

The Evening Star     [rating: 1 of 4 stars]
directed by Robert Harling
starring Shirley MacLaine, Juliette Lewis, Bill Paxton, Miranda Richardson, Marion Ross, Ben Johnson, Scott Wolf, and Jack Nicholson

 Billed as "The Continuing Story of Terms of Endearment," The Evening Star is a major disappointment. Without Terms director James L. Brooks or writer Larry McMurtry, this movie drifts aimlessly.

Whereas Terms of Endearment was filled with interesting relationships--between Emma (Debra Winger) and her mother, Aurora (Shirley MacLaine); between Emma and her husband, Flap (Jeff Daniels); between Aurora and her next-door-neighbor (Jack Nicholson); etc.--The Evening Star is little more than the Aurora Greenway show. None of the characters really challenge her for the spotlight. And as a result, I felt like one of the grandchildren she raised: I felt smothered and ready to get the hell out of Dodge.

None of the relationships in this movie carry any resonance. Aurora's relationship with Patsy (Miranda Richardson) is simply irritating. Her relationship with her granddaughter (Juliette Lewis) gets a big build up early in the movie and then simply peters out. Her relationship with the older of the two grandsons (now a prison convict) miraculously changes for the better. And it takes forever for Jack Nicholson to appear. His role is little more than a cameo (so don't expect to see much of him). But Marion Ross delivers a surprisingly effective performance as Aurora's maid, looking nothing at all like Mrs. Cunningham from Happy Days, and Bill Paxton gives a good performance as a counselor with an oedipal attraction to Aurora (his mother was a Vegas showgirl).

But the rest of this movie is an absolute mess.

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Photo credits: Rysher/Paramount. All rights reserved.
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