Lifetime TV’s Steel Magnolias captures so precisely the humor and sadness often found together in life’s moments

By Carolyn Edgar

There are definite perks to being affiliated with Melissa Chapman and Married My Sugar Daddy. Apart from having the pleasure of working with Melissa – who is so smart, so funny, so full of energy and so incredibly supportive – occasionally, there are perks, like getting invited to attend the premiere of Lifetime’s remake of the classic “Steel Magnolias.”

The premiere, held at the Paris Theater in Manhattan, was a star-studded affair. Most of the film’s stars were there, as well as many others who were involved in the making of the movie. At the after party, held at The Plaza, the stars mixed and mingled with the crowd, patiently posing for pictures and chatting about the film. I was delighted to chat with director Kenny Leon about the challenges of remaking a Hollywood classic, and I even got to snap a picture with Alfre Woodard, whom I’ve long adored as an actress.

Of course, the main purpose of the glitz and glamour was the film itself, which was a delight. Remakes in Hollywood almost seem clichéd at this point, but deciding to do a near shot-for-shot remake of a film as beloved as “Steel Magnolias”- with a predominantly black cast – was still a risky decision for Lifetime.

Thanks to an all-star cast, fans of the original will find much to love in the new “Steel Magnolias,” premiering on Lifetime Sunday, October 7 at 9 pm. The new film remains faithful to the original story, but screenwriter Robert Harling and director Kenny Leon have updated it to reflect both modern times and the African-American experience. Characters talk on cell phones and talk about reputations created – or destroyed – on Facebook. A wedding scene features wedding guests dancing to the Wobble – a terrific touch.
Those familiar with the 1989 film will have to refrain from comparing the actors on screen to the actors who originated each of the principal film roles. Letting go of those comparisons allows the viewer to enjoy each performance, as reinterpreted by the film’s finecast.

Aderepo Oduye, who plays Annelle, and Condola Rashad (Phylicia Rashad’s daughter), who plays Shelby, vie for the title of young breakout star. Phylicia Rashad (Clairee) and Alfre Woodard (Ouiser) have an easy chemistry that carries the movie’s heavier moments as well as its lighter ones. Jill Scott is beautiful and understated as beauty shop owner Truvy. One senses a great deal of quiet sadness behind her insistence that there is no such thing as natural beauty and her efforts to remain a beautiful and devoted wife to a man who has all but disappeared into himself.

Queen Latifah (M’Lynn), who is also an executive producer of the film, is a force of nature. As Shelby’s  overprotective mama, Latifah seems at times more sisterly than motherly, but she bears the weight of grief and loss remarkably in one of the film’s pivotal scenes. As with the original, the men are little more than background scenery, but Tory Kittles holds his own as Shelby’s loving husband Jackson.
Hankies and tissues are required viewing accessories. Even if you already know the story, you will cry. There’s no shame in letting the tears flow. “Steel Magnolias” is so beloved because it captures so precisely the humor and sadness often found together in life’s moments. The film’s story about women and the friends that sustain us transcends skin color. And lines like “I would rather have 30 minutes of something wonderful than a lifetime of nothing special” will keep audiences thinking well beyond when the credits begin to roll. This remake of “Steel Magnolias” is a pleasant surprise.

Carolyn Edgar is a lawyer, a writer and a single mother. The order of those three things changes daily, but she’s always at least one of those three things. She’s a graduate of Harvard Law School, a former law firm partner and current vice president at a Fortune 500 company. She practices law to pay the bills and writes for love and sanity. She’s also an avid reader, a social media maven, an indifferent yoga student, and a fan of most sports, especially tennis. She blogs about all of these things, and more at  http://carolynedgar.com . When she gathers the courage to put more of my words out there, add “author” to the list.

Steel Magnolias premieres October 7th, at 9pm on Lifetime.