Celebrating the crucial, sustaining friendships between two sets of modern-day and 1930s Southern femmes, pic [based on Fanny Flagg’s novel Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe] emerges as absorbing and life-affirming quality fare, but for a story celebrating fearlessness, it’s remarkably cautious.
Kathy Bates plays a frumpy middle-aged Southern suburbanite, who finds inspiration in the tales spun by a feisty nursing-home resident (Jessica Tandy). These center on a gambling, brawling but good hearted rural Alabama girl (Mary Stuart Masterson), and how she almost got fingered for murder.
Seems the girl had developed a deep friendship with a demure, God-fearing young woman (Mary Louise Parker) who later on in life was having trouble with her abusive husband (Nick Searcy). Masterson helped her find the courage to run off with her baby and come to work as the cook at her Whistle Stop Cafe. When Searcy turns up missing Masterson and her ‘colored man’ (Stan Shaw) are arrested on suspicion of murder.
Actual trial is merely a peg for a story that’s mostly about the stalwart friendship between the two young femmes, isolated in a world of ham-handed, bigoted menfolk. Since the Masterson character is clearly in love with Parker, it’s annoying that pic skates over the question of her sexuality.
Still, Tandy is at her sparkling best as the endearing old story-teller. Bates is also terrif in a funny and sympathetic turn. Director Jon Avnet, in his feature film debut, gets first-rate work from the featured performers.
1991: Best Supp. Actress (Jessica Tandy).
Nomination: Best Adapted Screenplay