The Evening Star

1996, PG-13, 129 min. Directed by Robert Harling. Starring Shirley MacLaine, Bill Paxton, Miranda Richardson, Marion Ross, Juliette Lewis, Donald Moffat, Ben Johnson, George Newbern, Mackenzie Astin, Scott Wolf, Jack Nicholson.

REVIEWED By Steve Davis, Fri., Dec. 27, 1996

She's been gone for 15 years, but the memory of Emma -- beloved daughter, mother, and friend -- still haunts the characters in The Evening Star, the long-awaited bookend to Terms of Endearment. For the indomitable Aurora Greenway (who else but MacLaine could reprise her Oscar-winning role?), the task of raising Emma's three children hasn't met her lofty expectations, to say the least: Tommy (Newbern) is in prison on a possession conviction, Teddy (Astin) is happy towing cars for a living, and Melanie (Lewis) wants to quit college to move to Los Angeles with her boyfriend, who aspires to be an underwear model. And where Terms of Endearment examined the rocky course of love by focusing on Aurora's relationships with her daughter and her next-door neighbor (Nicholson in the quintessential Nicholson role), The Evening Star shifts the focus to her relationships with two characters who were peripheral in the original: Patsy (Richardson), Emma's best friend and confidant, and Rosie (Ross), Aurora's trusted housekeeper for 40 years. (As Rosie, Ross gives an unexpectedly poignant performance, easily the best in the film.) What made Terms of Endearment a great movie was the sense of discovery it imbued in its audience; its characters and its narrative unfolded in a way that you couldn't predict, and the result was often exhilarating. Of course, The Evening Star can't possibly accomplish the same -- there's a history here between movie and audience -- and so it wisely evokes memories of its predecessor without plagiarizing it. (Aurora's efforts to chronicle her life through scrapbooks, in an attempt to leave some kind of legacy, makes for an unobtrusive way for this film to pay tribute to the other.) Scenes occasionally echo those in Terms of Endearment: a granddaughter's departure for an out-of-state destination with a man who's all wrong for her; late-into-the-night long-distance phone conversations between grandmother and granddaughter about men; a disastrous first date that ends in sexual bliss; a convertible ride on the beach; and, of course, the loss of a loved one. (In fact, when it comes to the subject of death, The Evening Star is somewhat obsessed, understandably so given that it's the twilight chapter of Aurora's life.) As funny as it is sentimental -- yes, you'll laugh and you'll cry -- The Evening Star isn't a sequel that is superior to or even as good as its predecessor, but it's definitely one that complements that which came before it. Like the comforting sound of an old friend's voice, it will take you to a familiar place.

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The Evening Star, Robert Harling, Shirley MacLaine, Bill Paxton, Miranda Richardson, Marion Ross, Juliette Lewis, Donald Moffat, Ben Johnson, George Newbern, Mackenzie Astin, Scott Wolf, Jack Nicholson

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