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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Fried Green Tomatoes - Extended Edition
Fried Green Tomatoes - Extended Edition
Universal // PG-13 // June 6, 2006
List Price: $19.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Holly E. Ordway | posted June 4, 2006 | E-mail the Author
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The movie

Fried Green Tomatoes certainly deserves an "Anniversary Edition," even if it's only fifteen years since its theatrical release, for the simple fact that this is an excellent film that didn't get enough recognition at the time, and that has undeservedly slipped a bit under the radar since then. With its largely female cast, Fried Green Tomatoes is the kind of film that gets easily - and undeservedly - slapped with the faintly patronizing label of "chick flick," but both male and female viewers ought to sit up and take notice: this is an all-around well-made movie.

Put in its most straightforward terms, Fried Green Tomatoes is the story of friendship: between Evelyn, a restless housewife (Kathy Bates), and Ninny, a lonely nursing-home resident (Jessica Tandy), and between two young women, Idgie and Ruth, in the tale that Ninny spins out from her memories of those long-ago days.

It's invariably the case, though, that solid movies are much more than what the bare facts of the premise might suggest. Evelyn and Ninny serve to introduce the tale of Idgie and Ruth, but these characters and their stories are much more than just a frame. The growing friendship between Evelyn and Ninny, and Evelyn's inspiration to change her life for the better, are an important part of the story of Fried Green Tomatoes. In fact, one of the best decisions in the script of Fried Green Tomatoes is to interweave the stories of the two sets of friends. For one thing, our interest in the tale of Idgie and Ruth is heightened by the fact that the tale is interrupted several times, sometimes with key parts of the story hanging. Evelyn is eager to come back for another visit with Ninny to find out what happened next, and so are we. Evelyn's reactions, and her growing friendship with Ninny, also underscore the message of Fried Green Tomatoes: that friendship is of central importance in our lives, and in fact has the power to reshape our lives for the better, if we let it.

But when viewers think of the main story of Fried Green Tomatoes, they'll think (with justification) of the 1920s-era tale of Idgie (Mary Stuart Masterson) and Ruth (Mary-Louise Parker), as they endure loss, find friendship, and learn to love again. Several strongly dramatic story threads are developed throughout this part of the film, such as Idgie coming to terms with the loss of someone dear to her, and Ruth struggling to escape an abusive husband. Oh, and there's a murder that Idgie is accused of... The characters are at the center of Fried Green Tomatoes, but what makes the film work well is that the character development happens naturally as the story moves forward with an interesting narrative.

It's a shame that Fried Green Tomatoes didn't win any Oscars for its actresses, because the performances across the board here are outstanding. All four of the central characters - Evelyn, Ninny, Idgie, and Ruth - are brought to life in a convincing, three-dimensional, complex way. We care about them, and the film makes us share their sorrows as well as their joys, without ever feeling manipulative.

Looking at the film now in 2006, I'd have to compare it to Brokeback Mountain in terms of many of its themes and techniques, most notably the theme of friendship and love in the face of social challenges. But while Brokeback Mountain makes the homosexual relationship explicit between its two main characters, Fried Green Tomatoes merely hints that there might possibly be one - or at least that there is a certain attraction that could lead to one - if we are determined to find one. That reserve is part of why Fried Green Tomatoes handles the relationship between Idgie and Ruth so much better than the similar situation in Brokeback Mountain. In addition to generating a lot of light and heat with the controversy attendant on any exploration of male homosexuality in our culture, Brokeback Mountain emphasizes the sexual part of their relationship above all else. In contrast, what's important about Idgie and Ruth is that they are true friends, who care about each other and take care of each other, even when it's the two of them against the rest of the world. It's a shame that Fried Green Tomatoes didn't get the critical acclaim and attention that Brokeback Mountain did, because in this reviewer's view, it's by far the better film.

The Extended Version

This DVD has the gargantuan total of about seven minutes of additional footage incorporated into the film. The new material isn't completely new, though; this extended cut has been shown in the network television version of the film. The extra material is all fairly minor; we get short segments that show a few more details of the characters' lives and interactions. It adds some more color and depth to the film, but it is, in fact, just seven minutes... If you don't own the film on DVD already, you might as well get this version, but I'd say that it's certainly not worth a re-buy.

The DVD

Video

Fried Green Tomatoes is presented in a 1.85:1 widescreen anamorphic transfer. Some grain appears in the image, and edge enhancement is visible, especially in long-distance shots. Overall, the colors are bright and vibrant, and close-up shots look nicely detailed and clean. Overall, it's not a perfect transfer, but it's one that's satisfactory and generally pleasing to the eye.

Audio

The Dolby 5.1 surround track serves this movie well. Though it might seem like a dialogue-centered film, in fact there are a number of scenes that make good use of the surround channels. The track as a whole is clean and natural-sounding, with music well balanced with the other aspects of the track. Spanish and French subtitles are included, along with English closed captions.

Extras

There's a very nice slate of special features here. The most substantial is a documentary called "Moments of Discovery: The Making of Fried Green Tomatoes." This is no mere featurette: it runs a solid hour and five minutes, and includes extensive interviews with the filmmakers and cast. For any fan of the film, this is a very solid bonus piece.

The other main special feature is a full-length audio commentary track from director Jon Avnet, who does a nice job of providing interesting information about the making of the film.

For minor special features, we have several items. A minute-long collection of short deleted scenes is included, along with about three minutes of outtakes, which are fairly cute. There's a collection of "Sipsey's Recipes," and a four-minute gallery of Jon Avnet's shot-specific notes for some scenes; we see the actual pages of the script with his typed comments included. Lastly, we get a gallery of production photos and another of the film's poster campaign.

Final thoughts

This "Anniversary Edition" of Fried Green Tomatoes is a solid release... though it doesn't offer anything that wasn't already included in the earlier DVD release of the film (which, as far as I know, also includes the seven minutes of extra footage). If you already own the DVD, you are all set; if not, you might just as well pick up this disc as the earlier release. While I'd definitely give the film itself a "highly recommended" rating, the fact that this release offers nothing to set itself apart from the earlier release makes me shift it down to a "recommended" overall. In any case, I certainly think viewers should pick up Fried Green Tomatoes in some form: it's a really solid film.

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