Kathy Bates and the late Jessica Tandy star in Fried Green Tomatoes, a wonderfully surprising film about four strong women finding friendship, loyalty, and strength in each other. Sounds boring, right? I thought so, too, until I actually sat down and gave the extended anniversary edition a chance. The film, based on Fannie Flagg’s novel Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, is really two stories in one. Bates plays an unhappy Southern woman stuck in a marriage routine, which doesn’t favor her n…eds at all. She is underappreciated, despite her calm, sweet demeanor, and routinely thrown out of her husband’s aunt’s room at the nursing home. It’s during one of these rejections that she meets Nanny Threadgoode (Tandy), a positive old woman determined to get her house back, and eager for the chance to talk about her past.
But it isn’t her own life that Nanny wants to tell her new friend about – it’s the friendship of two women, Idgie (Mary Stuart Masterson) and Ruth (Mary-Louise Parker), whom Nanny used to know, that gets the old woman talking. Be forewarned. There are some hanky moments, but they’re all handled with great care. Also, the racial elements of the backstory and an intriguing murder mystery amp up the drama to a reasonably tense and captivating level. Director Jon Avnet keeps the film from ever getting too hoky or melodramatic, though I will say it can’t escape predictability. There are some pseudo-surprises you should see coming from a mile away, and even a touch of morbidity toward the film’s conclusion. But it all works, thanks in large part to great source material, a strongly adapted script, and the amazing performances of all four women.
The film is presented in its original 1.85:1 widescreen format, and is anamorphically enhanced, as one should come to expect from double dips. Every square inch of this 137-minute long film has been remastered to perfection. The gorgeous exteriors of East Juliette, Georgia, come through with all the plush greenery and muddy brown waters one could expect from the rural South. I detected no grain or edge enhancement either, and the black levels mix well with the richly saturated colors.
Presented in 5.1 surround, the track uses pin-drop silence and sound progression extremely well to invoke viewer emotions. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the catalyst for Idgie and Ruth’s relationship. A feeling of impending doom accompanies Buddy Threadgoode’s (Chris O’Donnell) trek along the railroad tracks to save young Ruth’s hat. As young Ruth and Idgie watch on, they hear a train approaching: first, faintly, but as it quickly picks up steam, a wave of dread and sorrow rushes along the tracks toward a stuck, and helpless, Buddy. It’s a chilling moment, and a terrific example of how a track should function beyond the basics of what is asked. In addition, the track carries high, and equally balanced, volume between sound and dialogue.
The bonus materials offer many worthwhile inclusions to those, who have yet to purchase a DVD release of the film. In a few words, this section is the icing on an almost perfect cake. Included here are deleted scenes, outtakes, a feature commentary from Avnet, Avnet’s director’s notes, Sipsey’s Recipes, the poster campaign, and production photographs. All of these features are worth checking out, at least once. Last, and best, there is an hour-long documentary entitled Moments of Discovery: The Making of Fried Green Tomatoes. This documentary features interviews with all the stars of the film (even Tandy before her death), Avnet, Flagg, and many more.
Never have I been so pleased with a “chick flick.” In all fairness, the film deserves a better classification; and it’s surprising to hear myself say that, considering the dread I took with me into the first moments. Strong storytelling can overcome any preliminary obstacle, and such was the case with Fried Green Tomatoes. Your tastes in film do not matter. You owe it to yourself to check out this film. I couldn’t have asked for a better presentation than what Universal has given it. Great audio-video (in equal parts), and a boatload of bonus materials make this one anniversary edition worth breaking the bank for – luckily, it comes at a price where doing so is unnecessary.
Special Features List
- Deleted Scenes
- Moments of Discovery: The Making of Fried Green Tomatoes
- Feature Commentary with Director Jon Avnet
- Jon Avnet’s Director’s Notes
- Sipsey’s Recipes
- Poster Campaign
- Production Photographs