Queen Latifah, Alfre Woodard, Phylicia Rashad, Jill Scott and Adepero Oduye are the new faces of the 1989 classic film “Steel Magnolias.” And if early reviews are any indication, the foursome adds just the right flavor to the contemporary remake.
Latifah co-executive produced the new made-for-TV production, which will premiere on Lifetime on Sunday at 9 pm EST. The remake is the brainchild of Oscar-winning producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron. The two are no strangers to remakes, having collaborated on the 2008 TV movie “A Raisin in the Sun,“ the 2003 ”The Music Man“ and the 1999 remake of ”Annie.”
At the movie’s center is Academy Award nominee Latifah, who reprises the role of M’Lynn Eatenton, played by Sally Field in the 1989 movie. Directed by ”Raisin in the Sun’s” Kenny Leon, “Steel Magnolias” centers on M’Lynn and her soon-to-be-wed diabetic daughter Shelby (Condola Rashad). Much of the movie takes place at a beauty parlor owned by Truvy (Scott) and frequented by the crotchety Ouiser (Woodard), her comedic friend and nemesis Clairee (Rashad), and a new hairdresser, Annelle (Oduye).
USA Today film critic Robert Bianco writes: “In the film’s most dramatic roles, Latifah is such a commanding presence that she sometimes pulls more attention to M’Lynn than the character warrants, and the younger Rashad’s harsher line readings sometimes make you wonder why everyone is so enamored of Shelby. But Rashad’s choices also remove that too-good-to-be-true patina that has often made Shelby a bit hard to take, and in the end, that works in the movie’s favor.
“Rashad… and Woodard are as well-matched a pair of actors as you can find, and they bring a depth to their portrayals that keep their lines from seeming too acid without reducing the comedy. Oduye may be the most sympathetic Annelle yet, while Scott brings a needed glow to Truvy.”
The timeless story is a welcomed, feel-good flick. Watching a group of strong, beautiful and talented black women is an added benefit particularly during a time when a cat fight (yes, Mariah and Minaj) between prominent black female entertainers is running above the proverbial fold. During filming, which took place in part in a stuffy warehouse in southeast Atlanta, there were no reports of personality conflicts or grandstanding among the group.
The production has not been without its challenges, with the most recent being a lawsuit filed by Victoria L. White, who co-executive produced the original version. White, who was not involved in the latest production, is seeking a co-executive producer credit and says that she’s entitled to some cash for the Lifetime Entertainment remake — including a $15,000 fee, plus up to 3.75% of net profits from the movie. Lifetime Television has not responded to the suit filed on Monday.
Bianco writes: “Despite the tragedy that drives its plot, there’s something slight about Steel Magnolias—a slightness that at times might have benefited from a lighter, faster touch. But it offers the pleasure of spending a Sunday night with some terrific female actors, including a few who count as mature—a rare treat on a medium that doesn’t provide as many roles as it might to women of a certain age, or to African-American women of any age.”