Fried Green Tomatoes (1991) is one of my favourite films of all time, without question. There are negative attitudes surrounding some elements of the narrative, such as race relations and the true nature of Ruth and Idgie’s relationship, but I think when you’re worrying about that… you miss the point! This film is about storytelling and reaping some of life’s greatest rewards.
When I was growing up, I loved Sunday dinners at my Mam-ma’s house. In case anyone from a different region is reading this, “Mam-ma” is another word for “Grandma”… this always baffles my Canadian friends! Sunday dinners were usually spent listening to various thoughts about church until one of my grandparents remembered a childhood experience. The rest of the afternoon was spent reminiscing over lemon meringue pie and iced tea. I think these memories are some of the reasons why Fried Green Tomatoes means so much to me.
Ninny Threadgoode (Jessica Tandy) is not an average person. She loves to talk, has no personal barriers, and will share family stories with anyone she stumbles upon at her retirement home. Evelyn Couch (Kathy Bates) is the recipient of her stories from the past and learns many valuable life lessons from Idgie Threadgood (Mary Stuart Masterson) and Ruth Jamison (Mary-Louise Parker, pre-Weeds fame) through Ninny’s stories about them. I have read book Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fanny Flagg and I believe Jessica Tandy does a brilliant job as Ninny and performs her scatter-brained dialogue above and beyond.
Possibly the most comforting aspect of this film is Ninny, as an elderly woman nearing the final stages of her life, claiming to know the secret to life. Our one solace is knowing it is possible to have this realization in our final years and, as an audience, we can rely on her because she is elderly and wise. According to Ninny, friendship, true friendship, is the secret to survival. Take a look at this scene between Idgie and Ruth proving her point:
[WARNING: crude language]
There are many films featuring senior citizens and I believe their experience, wisdom, survival through hardships and epiphanies make them endearing and enjoying to watch. These two films barely scratch the surface of films featuring “old poops”… and I love almost every narrative I’ve seen with a seasoned actor at the forefront.