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Blu-ray Review

DVD cover

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café


Starring: Kathy Bates, Jessica Tandy, Mary Stuart Masterson and Mary-Louise Parker
Distributor: ITV Studios Global Entertainment
RRP: £15.99
Certificate: PG
Release Date: 21 July 2014

Evelyn is a middle aged woman with low self-esteem and a well-meaning, but neglectful, husband. During a hospital visit to an aging relative, Evelyn meets Mrs Ninny Threadgoode and the two strike up a conversation. Ninny starts to tell Evelyn about the relationship between two friends which she knew in her youth. Idgie is a rebellious young woman, who befriends both tramps and coloureds, much to the consternation of her family and neighbours in the Deep South. She meets and immediately strikes up a relationship with Ruth, who appears more traditional, but in her own way is just as rebellious...

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café (1991. 2 hr, 10 min, 02 sec) is a comedy/drama, directed by Jon Avnet from a script by Carol Sobieski, Jon Avnet and Fannie Flagg (who wrote the original novel). The film was released in two versions and this is the unextended one. The film gained eleven award nominations and won six.

The film does make some changes to the original novel, the most important one being the relationship between Idgie and Ruth. In the film this is left very ambiguous, whereas the novel made it plain that the two were lovers, another break with the culture of the Deep South. To balance this up, the film deals a lot more with the issues of race.

The film is split into two time periods. In the present (1950’s) Evelyn (Kathie Bates) listens to Ninny (Jessica Tandy) tell the story. I’m not a great fan of flashbacks, but for once this works, partially because it never resolves itself into Ninny being Idgie, there are numerous clues in the film to support that they are two different people. Some have felt that they were the same character, I mostly I think that this comes from the fact that, although she must have been around, Ninny never appears in the 1920’s story as a distinct character. It also works because the story of Idgie and Ruth inspires Evelyn to stop being so passive in her life and to make changes which will lead to greater happiness.

In the flashback Idgie (Mary Stuart Masterson) and Ruth (Mary Louise Parker) get through their tribulations together - Idgie loses her brother in an accident and Ruth marries an abusive husband - to finally open up their café. Things seem to be going well, even though they are happy to serve negroes and tramps, which brings them into conflict with the clan, until Evelyn is arrested for the murder of Ruth’s husband. This is not a great spoiler as the film opens with his truck being dragged out of the river and Ninny mentioning the murder before moving the story back to an earlier time.

There are a couple of oddities in the film. There is one scene where Evelyn goes to meet Ninny at the hospital, only to discover that she has had her hair cut short and dyed. Only for the next scene between the two showing that Ninny’s hair has not only changed back to its original colour, but she appears to have succeeded in growing three years worth of hair overnight. Nor is it particularly explained why the reverend was so happy to lie on Idgie's behalf.

Taken as a whole this is not really a film about a murder, nor is it really about lesbianism at a time when it was socially unacceptable. This is really a film about love and family, neither of which has to be based on ties of blood, but on affectionate connections between people, regardless of sex and race. Mind you, what’s not to like in a film which succeeds in mixing lesbianism with cannibalism?

There are a number of extras on the Blu-ray, kicking off with six short interviews with the major characters and a phone interview with the author Fannie Flagg. Remembering Jessica Tandy (3 min, 20 sec) takes a retrospective look at the actress’s career, sort of. What you get is a scrolling timeline of her films, set to the film's main musical theme. You also get the theatrical trailer (2 min, 41 sec) and a teaser trailer (4 min, 02 sec) which acts as an introduction and extended advert for the film.

The film is presented with an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The picture looks to have been restored and given its age the quality and detail in the picture is good. There are two audio options a 2.0 LPCM stereo track and a 5.1 DTS-HD MASTER AUDIO TRACK, the second being obviously the superior of the two. The film also has English subtitles.

In many ways, a bit like Thelma and Louise (1991), which came out in the same year, this could be viewed as a chick flick, and, like Thelma and Louise, the story transcends that label to produce a funny and heartfelt story, with wonderful acting from all involved. It’s a pity that the extras were a bit pants, as I know that there is not only a director’s cut out there but also a director’s commentary.


Charles Packer

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