When it comes to this year’s Genre Grandeur reviews, I have chosen not to write about Hallmark films, even though I could have. This trend is the result of wanting to expand my cinematic horizons. But that is not the only trend among my Genre Grandeur reviews this year. Most of the movies I’ve talked about, so far, were recommended by my readers. With April’s Genre Grandeur theme being “Films About Food”, I selected a movie suggested by Jillian from The Classic Film Connection. That title is 1991’s Fried Green Tomatoes! At first, I had no idea how food was significant to this story. While I knew Fried Green Tomatoes was based on a pre-existing book, I had not read the book prior to watching the film. As I watched the movie, though, I began to see how the story prioritizes food. So, set the table and get the entrée ready, for I’m about to review Fried Green Tomatoes!
Things I liked about the film:
The inclusion of food: As I mentioned in the introduction, I did not know the role food would play in Fried Green Tomatoes. But as the story progressed, the significance of food became clearer! This aspect of the film is included in two ways. The first is forming connections between the characters, building bridges of communication and even camaraderie. When Evelyn and Ninny first meet, Evelyn shares one of her candy bars with Ninny. This exchange served as the starting point for these characters’ friendship. Food also represented the world surrounding the characters. When Ninny is first telling Idgie and Ruth’s story to Evelyn, the story starts at a wedding. At the wedding reception, a table of decadent desserts is shown on screen, from a variety of pies to the wedding cake itself. The picture-perfect presentation of these desserts emphasized the affluent backdrop these characters existed in. Those two ways food was placed into the story allowed food to be the thread that kept the movie together!
The acting: I’ve seen some of Kathy Bates’ films prior to watching Fried Green Tomatoes. Out of those movies, I noticed Kathy has portrayed characters who were head-strong and confident. But with her portrayal of Evelyn in Fried Green Tomatoes, this performance was different. That’s because Evelyn slowly, but surely, became confident over time. Kathy’s approach to her character was very reminiscent of a chameleon. This was achieved through a combination of body language, emotions, and facial expressions. Another great aspect of Kathy’s performance was her on-screen camaraderie with Jessica Tandy! With Jessica’s effortless portrayal of Ninny, the interactions between Evelyn and Ninny appeared so natural, as if their friendship was always meant to be. I also felt this way about Idgie and Ruth’s friendship. Portrayed by Mary Stuart Masterson and Mary-Louise Parker, these characters presented a classic example of “opposites attract”! One of my favorite scenes in Fried Green Tomatoes was when Ruth and Idgie are giving non-perishable food items to members of a homeless camp. At first, Ruth is alarmed by Idgie’s actions, believing Idgie is stealing. But Idgie explains how people at church only say they do good work instead of practicing what they preach. This explanation shows Ruth how Idgie’s free-spirited nature could be directed toward helping others, as Idgie sees Ruth is in her corner and willing to support her.
The addition of a mystery: In Fried Green Tomatoes, there is a murder mystery woven into Ruth and Idgie’s story. In fact, the movie begins with the murder victim’s car being pulled out of a river. But this murder mystery is simply a part of the story, not the main focus. Because it is drawn out throughout the film, it gave the audience a reason to stay invested in what was happening on screen. The mystery unfolded as the story progressed, with pieces revealed as Ninny told Evelyn Idgie and Ruth’s story. Since the audience is learning information alongside Evelyn, a shared experience is created between viewers and the characters.
What I didn’t like about the film:
Confusing parts of the story: For this part of my review, I will share some spoilers for Fried Green Tomatoes. If you haven’t seen this movie or read the book and are interested in checking this story out, please skip this paragraph and resume at the paragraph titled ‘Ninny’s unknown involvement in Idgie and Ruth’s story’.
There were some parts of Fried Green Tomatoes I found confusing. One example is Ruth’s reaction to train tracks. At the beginning of Ruth and Idgie’s story, they witness their friend, Buddy, get run over by a train. His foot got caught in the train track, preventing him from escaping his demise. Years later, Ruth has a son named Buddy Jr., naming her son after her and Idgie’s deceased friend. But Buddy Jr. loses his arm after playing on a train track. This begs the question; why would Ruth allow her son anywhere near train tracks, especially after what her friend went through?
Ninny’s unknown involvement in Idgie and Ruth’s story: When Ninny first introduces herself to Evelyn, she claims she married into Idgie’s family. Yet throughout Idgie and Ruth’s story, a younger version of Ninny is nowhere to be seen. None of the characters in Ruth and Idgie’s story mention Ninny either. This left me confused as to what Ninny’s involvement in Idgie and Ruth’s story was. Even the movie’s ending made me question Ninny’s identity.
Some unsmooth scene transitions: Fried Green Tomatoes features two timelines: one for the past (Ruth and Idgie’s story) and one for the “present” (Ninny and Evelyn’s story). While it was interesting to see these timelines unfold, I did not like the scene transitions from the past to the present. They were too abrupt, with little to no indication of the change in time. No voiceovers brought the audience, as well as Evelyn, out of the past. These unsmooth scene transitions felt jarring.
My overall impression:
In the 1990s, it seems like a popular cinematic trend was stories that primarily took place in the past. In these movies, a protagonist is either telling a story to other characters or a protagonist is reflecting on their life. Fried Green Tomatoes is one of these films, as there are two timelines in the story: one from the past and one from the “present”. But among these types of movies, there are titles I feel are stronger than Fried Green Tomatoes. With the inclusion of two timelines, it felt like they were competing for the audience’s attention. In fact, I thought Idgie and Ruth’s story was more interesting than Ninny and Evelyn’s story. There were also confusing parts of the movie, such as Ninny’s involvement in Ruth and Idgie’s story. Despite these flaws, though, I found Fried Green Tomatoes to be a fine, well-made film.
Overall score: 7.4 out of 10
Have you seen or read Fried Green Tomatoes? Are there any food related movies you’d like me to check out? Tell me in the comment section below!
Have fun at the movies!