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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Steel Magnolias
Steel Magnolias
Sony Pictures // Unrated // May 7, 2013
List Price: $22.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Neil Lumbard | posted July 20, 2013 | E-mail the Author
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Steel Magnolias DVD Review

One of the most successful of all American plays in Steel Magnolias, written by Robert Harling, and adapted into several impressive productions in theater and now through multiple films. The classic acclaimed drama about the lives of six women who are close friends to one another has been adapted for the screen again in a modern-update which utilizes an all African American cast. The new production was a Lifetime Network film production which aired on the 7th of October, 2012 and it is one which lives up to the story, play, and previous film adaptation impressively. Fans of Steel Magnolias and it's various incarnations will no doubt want to experience this new take on the beloved story.

This new rendition of Steel Magnolias consists of an acclaimed group that includes Queen Latifah as M'Lynn Eatenton, Phylicia Rashad as Clairee Belcher, Adepero Oduye as Annelle Dupuy Desoto, Condola Rashad as Shelby Eatenton Latcherie, Jill Scott as Truvy Jones, Tory Kittles as Jackson Latcherie, Afemo Omilami as Drum Eatenton, and Alffre Woodard as Louisa "Ouiser" Boudreaux. The performances by all of the actors help to carry the entirety of the work to successful places as each actor brings something special to their parts and it ultimately made this new version something that felt worthwhile and at home with telling the story of these close friends and their lives together in spirit, hope, and faith during the times of brightness and times of need amongst each other.

The story of Steel Magnolias is centered around a beauty shop in Louisiana where these friends meet and share stories about their day to day lives and some of their life experiences. During a visit to Truvy's Beauty Shop a lot of good stories can be shared and a lot of heartfelt moments take place where these characters spend time reflecting upon their lives; one of the absolutely essential story-elements which is focused upon in this area is that of Shelby Eaton's struggles with being diabetic, and her journey into marriage and parenting. It becomes one of the main focal points of the story.

Shelby faces some great difficulties with her pregnancy and this causes huge problems with her relationship with her mother, M'Lynn Eatenton. Shelby's doctors warn her to consider the risks of pregnancy with her health, yet she soldiers on to have a child anyway. It causes some of the central story elements of the film to become explored fully: with a firm focus upon how these characters connect to one another during these times of difficult and in how these moments of unity provide them with greater lasting strength that carries with them through life and beyond.

One of the greatest strengths of this production is the way in which the performances achieved felt so naturalistic and appropriate for the story and the characters. Each actress brought to the roles something unique, special, and worthwhile. It increased the enjoyment of the film and it proved that multiple film incarnations was a genuine possibility. This doesn't feel like a weak cash-in attempt to re-tell the story. It's a thoughtful take on the story. These are good reason to applaud the cast, the production team, and all involved for creating something special and with worth to fans. You become enthralled by their efforts: Condola Rashad and Queen Latifah are especially well matched for the mother-daughter dynamic and bring some genuine emotion to these roles, with carefully nuanced performances that are emotionally stirring and memorable. Alffre Woodard is also notable for her charming and charismatic performance as Louisa; the offbeat and unique performance earned her a nomination for the 2013 Emmy Awards.

Many of the audiences seeing this version of Steel Magnolias will find it to me more faithful to the original source material of the play than the previous film production. While both versions add in elements which weren't present initially (the play takes place inside of the beauty shop and doesn't introduce the male characters or the side-plots that are explored in both films the same way) this version spends a great deal of time inside of the beauty shop and less time in exploring the other areas of the adaptation grounds. These are the moments where the story excels the most and is most impressive. You find yourself enjoying the company of these characters and getting to know them better and that's part of the joy this story presents to audiences.

Director Kenny Leon does a good job directing performances and allowing the story to be focused upon brining out the best from these actors. This is where the new version excels beautifully and it's the core of the reason why anyone should want to revisit the story in a creative new light. When this film attempts to streamline itself more as a modern update it doesn't work exactly as necessary though: from the simple change in technology found on display to other production setting elements, these are the few and far between areas where certain elements of the film could have been slightly better overall. Yet Leon mostly spends directing time focused on the character relationships and it is in these moments that the work becomes truly definable as a classic of bravado storytelling.

Steel Magnolias is a nice new addition to Lifetime's television repertoire and it should be a delight for fans of all ages to re-explore these characters once more. You'll arrive upon this edition with love that results from a great affection for the original story and you'll stay for experiencing the many solid performances.

The DVD:


Steel Magnolias arrives on DVD with a 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer which retains the original television broadcast aspect ratio. This is a reasonable transfer which retains decent color, depth, and dimensionality. The film is not a 'stunner' - so to speak - and the cinematography isn't exactly one of the main attractions of the effort. Yet the DVD looks decent without much in the way of artifacts, artificial sharpening, and other distractions. It isn't the smoothest transfer that exists and it does have a certain degree of softness, but it's a pleasing presentation that fans of Steel Magnolias will be able to appreciate.


This DVD release presents Steel Magnolias with a 5.1 Dolby Digital audio track, which offers listeners a wider-range of sounds with some enveloping aural audio that is a bit more than just standard 2.0 audio would have offered. Dialogue is the forefront of the sound, and the clarity sounded good with an easy to understand manner of decent depth. This isn't a stunning audio presentation but it gets the job done.


There are no supplements on this release.

Final Thoughts:

Steel Magnolias is one of the most cherished of all American plays. This is another winning film adaptation of the play, and this time around it's a bit more faithful to the roots of the storytelling structure. It does spend some time updating things for modern viewers, too. The performances were solid all around. This Emmy nominated made-for-TV film is a good adaptation that fans will enjoy and that should be considered as something worthy to add to a DVD collection.


Neil Lumbard is a lifelong fan of cinema. He aspires to make movies and has written two screenplays on spec. He loves writing, and currently does in Texas.

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