Fried Green Tomatoes

There’s no better time to revisit your friends from Whistle Stop.

Genre(s): Drama, Comedy

Director: Jon Avnet

Actors: Kathy Bates, Jessica Tandy, Mary Stuart Masterson, Mary-Louise Parker

Year: 1991

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Country: USA

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Like the Southern home cooking featured so prominently in the film, Fried Green Tomatoes sticks to your ribs. Its characters take up residence in your mind and stay with you for years to come. Now, with the release of the Extended Anniversary Edition, there’s no better time to revisit your friends from Whistle Stop.

In case you missed Fried Green Tomatoes the first time around, Evelyn Couch (Kathy Bates) meets Ninny Threadgoode (Jessica Tandy) while visiting her husband’s crotchety old aunt in a nursing home. Ninny immediately launches into a story about a stubborn tomboy named Idgie (Mary Stuart Masterson) whose beloved brother (Chris O’Donnell) is hit by a train as he tries to retrieve his sweetheart’s hat from the tracks. Bound by their loss, Idgie and his sweetheart, Ruth (Mary-Louise Parker), become the best of friends. Transfixed by their story, Evelyn begins visiting Ninny regularly.

Though parted temporarily, fate brings Idgie and Ruth together again. Idgie instantly realizes that Ruth is in an abusive, loveless marriage, and it makes her mad enough to kill. She helps Ruth to move back to Whistle Stop with her baby, and the two women open a cafe. Their friendly treatment of Negroes and vagabonds causes tempers to flare, but the women stand firm.

When Ruth’s husband turns up like a bad penny, her ragtag friends band together to protect her, but it’s Idgie who is accused of his murder. Evelyn is so inspired by their strength and loyalty that she is moved to take charge of her own life. With every installment of their courageous tale, Evelyn becomes stronger, more assertive, and more comfortable in her own skin.

Ultimately Fried Green Tomatoes is a movie about discovering your best self through friendship. As individuals, every one of the film’s protagonists is strong, loyal, and unique. You couldn’t ask for a better cast of characters—spunky Jessica Tandy in her Converse high tops, the always excellent Kathy Bates, the feisty Mary Stuart Masterson, the quietly heroic Mary-Louise Parker, Stan Shaw as gentle Big George, Cicely Tyson as the tiny but tough Sipsey, Timothy Scott as the sweet alcoholic Smokey Lonesome… the list goes on.

Though the film is carried by the four principal women, the story transcends gender and succeeds on many levels. There’s comedy, mystery, tragedy, adventure, and drama all rolled up in a satisfying package. I’ve seen it about four times, and I still forget many of the little twists. In the end it’s not the events that matter, but the people who make them happen.

The deleted scenes and out-takes included on the special edition are nothing to write home about, there is a substantial “Making Of” documentary that features in-depth interviews with all of the important players, as well as the writer, director, and producer. Jon Avnet is featured heavily in the bonus materials, and his genuine love for this project is clear. Production photographs, various versions of the movie poster, and a surprising number of Sipsey’s recipes (which I think you could actually use) can also be found on this must-have DVD.

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