Resonating with universal experience, these tales convey the certainty that innocence is the beauty of youth, and passion the preserve of the experienced.
Any flaws in "How to Make an American Quilt" simply melt away under the powerful acting of a deeply intelligent cast. Maya Angelou, Anne Bancroft, Ellen Burstyn, Kate Nelligan, Jean Simmons, and Lois Smith are something to behold as they recall the pain that love has caused in their lives. Alfre Woodard and Winona Ryder are on board to absorb the wisdom of the older women, and the rest of us can simply sit there and enjoy the sight.
When such a group of actresses inhabits one story, the challenge of giving each of them enough to do in a two-hour movie is daunting when any one of them could carry the whole film alone. Add the fact that each of them tells her story in flashbacks that require a younger actress, and the number of people we need to track is doubled. This means we see too little of the older actresses, but they are so good that each of their scenes stands alone, polished and complete.
Six women are making a wedding quilt for Finn (Winona Ryder), granddaughter of Hy (Ellen Burstyn) and grandniece of Glady Joe (Anne Bancroft). Finn has come to spend the summer with her grandmother hoping to finish her graduate thesis and sort out her doubts about her impending marriage to Sam (Dermot Mulroney).
The life experience of the women flows straight from their souls through their fingers and into the squares. It falls to Anna (Angelou), the master quilter, to assemble the wonderfully different patterns into the balance the quilt demands. The quilting circle is the true extended family, with each life as different as each square in the making.
Resonating with universal experience, these tales convey the certainty that innocence is the beauty of youth, and passion the preserve of the experienced. They express also the quietly heartbreaking collision between a woman's dreams and the expectations of her family.
So absorbed is the audience in this movie, that when a child is born, there is an audible gasp of recognition that the mother's own dreams will die as motherhood takes from her one kind of love even as it gives her another. The film reflects today's culture so acutely that it fairly screams that a woman can't avoid erasure while she is attending to marriage and family. Watching an entire cast of fine performers bring a personal stamp to universal dilemmas and emotions is pure pleasure. Anne Bancroft stands alone in how to throw a tantrum; Maya Angelou, in the comforting dignity of her voice; Jean Simmons, in older beauty; Alfre Woodard, in worldliness; Ellen Burstyn, in the depth of her perceptions. To each other, they bring the hard learned lessons of tolerance and patience.
If the ending is too heavy-handed in creating a symbolic fresh breeze, it's too late by then to diminish the thoughtful trance that has enveloped the audience. This is a film that casts a spell.
Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 494
Studio : Universal
Rating : PG-13
Running Time: 1h56m
Copyright (c) Illusion
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