Film: Fried Green Tomatoes BUY IT
The Principals: Kathy Bates, Jessica Tandy, Mary Stuart Masterson, Mary-Louise Parker
The Premise: Fried Green Tomatoes (1991)
is a film that follows the story of three (four, if you want the spoiler) women. A menopausal Evelyn Couch (Kathy Bates) befriends an old lady in a retirement home. That old lady is Ninny Threadgoode (Jessica Tandy). She unravels more and more of her past on each of Evelyn’s visits, and what she tells is the story of the Whistle Stop Cafe, and the friendships it housed and the story of the tiny town it sprang up in. The story comes
from a 1987 novel titled Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe written by Fannie Flagg.
The story follows Idgie Threadgoode (Mary Stuart Masterson) as she grows from a young tomboy into an older, beautiful outcast of another kind. She’s the town loud-mouth, drunk, and adventurer, screaming into the church windows on a Sunday morning. An unlikely friendship between a much more proper Ruth Jamison (Mary-Louise Parker) and Idgie springs up, and they hop trains, get drunk, and play poker. Ruth needs Idgie. Idgie needs Ruth. The movie is a love story between two different sets of women (one from the present, and one from the past) who form an infinite bond over real-life issues like spousal abuse, sickness, and menopause. (FACT: Four out of five men will not read past this point in the article.)
The stories of the two friendships run parallel, and the result is not
only a greatly woven story, but a mystery of sorts. Someone takes care
of Ruth’s abusive husband, and we’re always led to believe that Idgie’s
great love for her leads her to seek revenge for her friend. It’s the
girls against Ruth’s husband and his KKK cronies, against anyone wanting
to spoil a good time, and against the only thing that can tear them
apart. Death. And damn does it tear your heart out when it happens.
Evelyn is going through menopause and feeling invisible to her husband
and the world at large. She’s in desperate need of taking her power
back, and she feels inept to discover herself through ways her peers are
— weekly feminist meetings and aerobic workouts. What Ninny offers her
is a calm and empathetic sounding board. She’s the mentor any woman
The story is whimsical at times. And it has a few downright ridiculous
moments: see Kathy Bates try to find her vagina with a mirror. See
Jessica Tandy with purple hair. And there’s that favorite scene where
Bates’ character screams “Tawandaaaa!!!” and repeatedly hits a parked
car out of giggling rage as she tries to take her power back. The periodic electric moments on screen between these pairs of women — Evelyn and Ninny and
Idgie and Ruth — is evidence that some sort of muse was present during
casting and filming. I simply cannot imagine any other four women
in these roles.
Is It Good: Fried Green Tomatoes
is an endearing story–a romance and a friendship that spans decades. It’s one of the best expositions of platonic romance between two females that I’ve found in film. It’s an entertaining watch, for sure. It gets emotional, but it’s not an emotional piece. It feels like you’re watching a novel–a novel you can’t put down–and quite literally so with effective voice-overs by Tandy and memorable secondary characters, subtext apparent, as well.
The film is aging a little bit. That’s for sure. Kathy Bates’ wardrobe is 1991 through and through. The flowered pattern on her sweatshirt matches the flowered pattern on her pants, which matches the flowered pattern on her shoes. She gets run over by a guy with a mullet in the grocery store. Two decades of feminist literature have reached a tidal wave and have managed to spill into the story line here as well. But now I find that the pure late-eighties and early nineties motifs are part of the fun of growing up with this movie. Timeless, though, are the friendships between the women. I had to say it. The film fuckin’ earned that. The chemistry is disgustingly good.
Is It Worth A Look:
If this has been on your Netflix list (come on, we all have some inexplicable shit on our lists!) and this somehow passed you by for all of two decades, please bump it up to the top. If you are a fan of stories that tend to hinge on nostalgia or a time period, then this is probably a safe bet. If you need a light, entertaining watch that will tug on your heart a wee bit, then this film is nearly a guarantee. If you tend to appreciate plot lines that feature female relationships, then you’re darn right, this one is for you. It’s stayed on my shelf for years. I weed out what I’ll never watch again, and this one keeps making the cut. I’ve found more quality films since, but this keeps doing what it promises to do on repeat viewings. If not a great film, it’s a sturdy one.