Tuesday December 12 , 2017
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True Women (1997)

Plot summary (with possible spoilers): This movie is three hours long and deals with so many different topics that it would be impossible for me to summarize it within the confines of this blog post. So instead of giving an extended summary as usual, I’m going to just give a very general one that should at least give you and idea of what the film is about.

As True Women opens, we see two young girls catching tadpoles in a creek somewhere in the Deep South in the 1830s. The girls are Euphemia “Phemie” Ashby (played by Tina Majorino at this point) and Georgia Lawshe (Rachel Leigh Cook). The two girls are best friends and do everything together, despite their different backgrounds (Georgia is one-quarter Cherokee, which in that world was akin to being a “Mudblood” in Harry Potter’s world. A man riding feverishly up to the house interrupts the girls’ playtime, and it’s learned that Phemie’s father died of a heart attack on his way home. She’ll have to go live with her sister Sarah (Dana Delaney) in Texas.

The girls write to each other, but their letters never reach their respective destinations. As a result, both grow up to be quite different form what they once were as children. Phemie (now played by Gish) has witnessed brutal attacks by Indians and has seen many of the menfolk around her get killed (including Sarah’s husband Bartlett) and many of the womenfolk ravaged. Phemie eventually goes off to school, where she develops a moral conscience and comes back more or less a social activist.

Meanwhile, although Georgia (now played by Jolie) saw some of the same types of brutalities, the occurrences didn’t affect her in the same way. She’s simply concerned with getting married, having children, running a very successful cotton plantation, and treating her slaves as fairly as possible. When she and her husband move to Texas, you just knew a reunion with Phemie was right around the corner.

The rest of the miniseries then deals with how the two women make it through various historical events, such as the Civil War and the women’s suffrage movement. Sometimes Phemie and Georgia handle these hard times on their own, sometimes they have each other to lean on. They do eventually reconcile fully, and learn to meet at least halfway on social issues.

My Reaction: I’ve never really evaluated a TV miniseries before, so you’ll have to bear with me on this one. I know that I should probably cut True Women some slack for being overly melodramatic at certain points (it was presented by Hallmark, after all), but beyond that, I think I’ll hold it to the same standards that I apply to theatrical releases.

One problem I had with the movie was how the plot was all over the place. The script tried to deal with too many different issues, and despite having three hours to develop the storylines, it still felt that a lot of things were rushed. I would have preferred it if just a couple of plots were chosen and developed thoroughly; it probably would have made for a far more satisfying viewing experience.

Other than the plot issues and the decidedly melodramatic feel, I thought the rest of the movie was actually pretty good. The performances were excellent, and that probably had as much of an impact on my enjoyment as anything else. I really liked Dana Delaney in this, and thought Annabeth Gish was good as well. I even liked Angelina Jolie’s performance (usually she bugs me), so that was an added bonus.

From what I’ve read about True Women, I guess the filmmakers (or the original source, which was novel of the same name by Janice Woods Windle) took lots of liberties with the historical events covered by the story. Personally, I wasn’t expecting to get a history lesson here, so the inaccuracies didn’t bother me at all.

On the whole, True Women was easy to watch despite the three-hour running time. There was always something happening, so there wasn’t any time for me to get bored. I’m giving the miniseries 3 stars out of 5, and think that it’s worth renting if you missed it when it first aired on TV.