Director Martha Coolidge builds a communal sense among a three-generation family of women who live well under the same roof on a lovely isle in Puget Sound; there’s also insularity bordering on smugness, not snugness, among them. The surplus of coziness weighs down Gerald Ayres’s teleplay; that, and Holly Hunter’s impresh of a neurotically dependent wife, are a challenge to an idyllic portrait of women virtually living without men.
Hunter, daughter of Gena Rowlands and sister of Frances McDormand,loves lawyer-hubby Bill Pullman so much she chases him to Seattle when he has to work overnight. Her little-girl mannerisms appeal to him and the all-caretaking Rowlands likes the status quo.
The family shares duties of caring for Rowlands’ widowed mom (beautifully realized by Herta Ware), who’s edging into senility, with Pullman and McDormand’s in-the-shadows husband joining in. Everyone’s trusting and loving, which becomes cloying after the first confining moments.
Rowlands, Ware and McDormand share a common pain–husbands’ infidelity–that Hunter dreads. She and her rampant possessiveness of her hubby are the center of the vidpic and, when he flies to London alone on business, she retaliates with a near fling with a visiting photographer (Julian Sands).
A crisis at home partially awakens her about her status, but it’s not clear whether Hunter, always the baby sister, will ever shuck her insecurities without professional help.
As the commanding matriarch, Rowlands is superb and Pullman’s patient husband is solid. Hunter’s baby act soon becomes irritating; McDormand’s practical woman is a welcome antidote to her sister’s infantilism. Marjorie Nelson adds a good characterization as a wise, blunt Seattle businesswoman.
Designer Phil Peters provides an old-money look to the island home, a smart contemporary style to the Seattle scenes. Johnny E. Jensen’s superior camerawork captures the ambiance sought by Coolidge. A couple of mismatched scenes are brief distractions, but the telefilm glows with love and concern.
Cynthia Millar’s rich, unobtrusive, supportive score helps considerably.