Like women all across the country, I set my alarm to go off last night to make sure I was front and center for the Steel Magnolias remake with a black cast that aired yesterday evening on Lifetime. The new version of the film classic about the lives of Louisiana southern belles starred Queen Latifah (M’Lynn), Alfre Woodard (Ouiser) , Phylicia Rashad (Clairee), and Jill Scott (Truvy) alongside newbie actresses Adepero Oduye (Anelle) and Rashad’s real life daughter, Condola Rashad (Shelby).
The original Magnolias ranks among my top favorite movies and is one of few movies along with Coming to America, Forest Gump, The Color Purple and Hope Floats that I watch every single time it comes on, so I was excited to see what the remake would do with the classic.
“After watching the film, I felt like it didn’t do enough”.
The strength of the remake lies in the phenomenal cast. The female cast was for the most part phenomenal. Woodard was the standout, making the Ouiser character completely her own and she and Phylicia Rashad stole the show whenever they were on screen. I was a little skeptical at first when I realized that Queen Latifah was playing M’Lynn–played by Sally Fields in the original–because in my mind, Queen looks a little too young to play grandma, but her on-point, emotional portrayal made me forget that she looked 37 for the whole movie (although I thought her hubby was poorly cast. I know I’m not the only one who felt like their scenes together looked like she was having an affair with her grandfather!.).
It took me a little while to warm up to Condola as Shelby, but even she and Oduye held their own on screen against the veteran actresses. Now”...as much as I love my girl Jill Scott and hate saying a bad word about her, I couldn’t help watching thinking that she was the weakest link. Her accent made my ears bleed and she overacted her role instead of simply stepping up to the plate.
“But my issue with the film was not the actresses or the acting. My problem was that the remake was too much like the original.”
Outside of an Eric Benet song playing at the wedding and dancing to the Wobble at the reception, the script was taken verbatim from the original. Of course, it is a remake, we already know the plot. But when I look at say, the difference between the Wizard of Oz and the Wiz, a lot of effort was put into making that movie “our own.” There were no changes to Steel Magnolias that would have made some of the dialogue more culturally in tune to a black audience. Instead of seeing a film about black southern belles, I felt like I was watching a film about white southern belles played by black actresses.
“It left me wondering, other than the fact that we got to see black women on screen, what was the point of the remake?”
There were moments throughout the whole film that, although minor points in the script, were missed opportunities to make the film into something unique. For instance when M’lynn says to Shelby in the salon “Your hair hasn’t been cut that short since kindergarten” I thought, really? I’m sorry but it’s pretty uncommon for a little black girl to be walking around with a super short haircut. Even the way the women berated Anelle for praying and being a devout Christian seemed out of step for old school Southern black women. I couldn’t help thinking: “Black folks don’t talk about Jesus like that.” Minor infractions, yes, but a little tweaking could have turned the film into a true remake instead of simply a copy.
In the end, the remake wasn’t horrible but overall, I was unimpressed. I would have much rather seen an original movie with all of these ladies in it. Steel Magnolias was done really well the first time, and the remake didn’t do anything to add to it, so my final verdict is that they should have left good enough alone.
BMWK What did you think of the Steel Magnolias Remake?