Sunday, September 13, 2009

How to Make an American Quilt (1995) [PG-13] ****

In a rural California farm town, Finn (Winona Ryder), a young graduate student, has come to spend the summer with her grandmother Hyacinth (Ellen Burstyn), her great aunt Glady Jo (Anne Bancroft) and the other members of their quilting circle - Anna (Maya Angelou), Emma (Jean Simmons), Sophia (Lois Smith), Marianna (Alfre Woodard) and Constance (Kate Nelligan).

Finn works on her thesis on women's handicrafts, while the women create her wedding quilt, using the theme Where Love Resides. As they stitch the panels of the quilt, Finn learns about their lives and loves, their joys and sorrows, how their experiences over the past fifty years have changed and enriched them, and she observes how their memories form the pattern and fabric of the quilt. Finn learns that we are all physical and emotional beings, and that sometimes our passions cause us to plunge into an adventure without considering the consequences, just as a young girl might dive off a rock ledge into a lake and into her lover's arms, or she might welcome a lover with outstretched arms while lying on an artist's couch or in a bath of warm, soapy water or on the warm, rich earth of a fruit orchard. In deciding whether to commit to her friend and fiance Sam (Dermot Mulroney) or her summer fling Leon (Johnathon Schaech), Finn draws on the lifelong experience of the members of the quilting circle, and relives with them their own youthful experiences.

The screenplay, direction, casting, editing, cinematography, soundtrack, everything about this sublime, character-driven drama is perfect. Kate Capshaw is delightful as Finn's mother, and the supporting cast portraying the women, and their men, as youths is excellent, especially Joanna Going as young Emma, and Samantha Mathis as young Sophia. If you enjoy female-centered, multi-generational dramas that are rich in character development, you won't want to miss How to Make an American Quilt. 

Labels: comedy, drama, romance     
Internet Movie Database    
RottenTomatoes Averages (critics=58, viewers=64)