Reviewed bypreppy-3Vote: 8/10/10
Winona Ryder spends a summer with her aunts while writing her thesisand deciding whether to marry her fiancée Dermot Mulroney. She learnsabout life and love through her aunts and friends while they sew a hugequilt together. Good, well-done but there's too much material for onemovie. There are 5 flashbacks along with the main story and they'regiven very short shrift. The real pleasure is seeing a bunch of pros(Ellen Burnstyn, Anne Bancroft, Winona Ryder, etc) act with a talentedthen-unknown cast (Jonathan Schaech, Claire Danes, Mulroney, etcetc)... everyone's good and on target. Nothing new script-wise but Iwas never bored. Also good to see the late Esther Rolle and Jared Letoin small bits. Worth catching, but very talky at times.
Reviewed byJsnowdVote: 5/10/10
I have spent many pleasant hours mocking "How To Make An American Quilt" tofriends, but at this moment I want to play fair. I'm sure that there aremany things to like about this movie and that somehow they escaped mynotice. For me it was never more than a series of plot devices stitchedtogether (ha ha) to form an unsatisfying story.
Winona Ryder is always a pleasure to watch. I've liked her better in moreirreverent titles like "Beetlejuice" or "Heathers". Still, she wearsearnestness well, and manages to make bearable the Poloniusesque quiltspeech at end of the picture (see the quotes section).
The supporting players should be every bit as watchable (with severalcenturies of acting experience among them, they ought to be). I wish I'dbeen allowed to watch them act. Their function was to sit in front of thecamera quilting and say a few words of introduction before theflashback--as if they were hosts of a documentary.
I want to pause for a moment over Maya Angelou's casting. It's always atricky thing introducing a famous person from another discipline as anactor. I call it the "Hey, you're Kareem Abdul-Jabbar" problem (based onthe scene from _Airplane_ where a kid recognizes the basketball player inthe co-pilot's seat. The joke is in how much time he spends denying it).Maya Angelou has screen presence, but does nothing to dispel the problem.My dominant experience watching her was, "Wow, they got Maya Angelou, worldfamous poet!" Maybe this was the idea. Maybe the filmmakers felt herfamous presence would, in itself, add depth to the proceedings, so whymuddyit with anything as messy as an interesting character? Her appearance wasless acting than promotion. Maya Angelou wouldn't appear in a dog, wouldshe?
The plot reminds me of a line Robin Williams had about alcoholics, "Yourealize you're and alcoholic when you repeat yourself. You realize you'rean alcoholic when you repeat yourself. You realize, oh dammit." Eachwoman's story follows a similar pattern. Girl meets boy, sleeps with boy,marries boy, boy leaves, boy comes back--each time unconvincingly (I wonderhow far any guy has ever gotten with the opening line "You swim like amermaid"). The Alfre Woodard story is the only variation, and as a result,the only interesting one among them.
And of course Winona Ryder's Finn has a similar problem. Does she marryDermott Mulrooney or does she go off with the local stud muffin. I callhimthe local stud muffin because that's all he is. The actor who played himdidn't convince me that there was anything under the perfectI-don't-have-to-work-out abs that would compel her to do more than roll inthe field with him. He wasn't a character so much a plot device meant toset up an obvious choice. Handsome rogue or dependable architecht? Giventhe way the flashbacks ran, take a guess.
There are more scenes to pummel here. There's the thesis blowing away inthe wind (she's the only grad student I've ever seen with no notes, nopaperweight, and, since she was using a typewriter, no carbons), andthere'sher random meeting with the Stud Muffin (who just happened to be hangingoutin the groves with a picnic basket and a blanket for her. I guess this wasset before the advent of stalking laws), but it would take too long to mockthem all. The real trouble with the movie is that it was so earnest, sodesperate to convince the audience of its poetic depths, that it wound upshallow, unsatisfying, unconvincing and unintentionallyfunny.
Or, to put it another way--never have so many, who were so talented, workedon something so ordinary.
Reviewed byJennifer LitchfieldVote: 5/10/10
How to Make an American Quilt is a nice comfortable movie, and unlike somany other films belonging to the 'coming of age' genre, it doesn't leavethe viewer feeling emotionally drained. It is also unusual in that itattempts to breach the generation divide in its appeal; however its successin this respect is debatable.
Finn is 26 and, hoping for some peace and quiet in which to complete herMaster's thesis, she heads for her great-aunt's house in small-town Grasse,California. She also needs time to mull over a marriage proposal from herboyfriend. This is an entrance cue for a smoulderingly handsome strawberryfarmer (in an unnecessary plot complication) to hinder Finn'scontemplations.
Great-aunt Glady-Joe lives with her sister, Hy, and their constant bickeringis portrayed with sensitivity and humour by Anne Bancroft and Ellen Burstyn.The two sisters belong to a quilting group, who are in the process ofcreating Finn's wedding quilt - thematically titled 'where love resides'. This evokes something different for each of the women, all of whom - inartificially contrived tete-a-tetes - explain to Finn the story behind theircontributions to the quilt. The viewer is transported to a time when theseelderly women were young, and through them we (along with Finn) learn thattimes may change, but affairs of the heart will always beunpredictable.
These dalliances in the past are refreshingly piquant; unfortunately this iscountered by the film's occasional heavy-handedness. The symbolic crow thatleads the women to their true love has all the subtlety of a flashing neonsign. Ultimately however, even if it does perhaps tie up the loose ends toothoroughly, the film will leave the viewer pleasantly satisfied.
Finn is a young graduate student, finishing a master's thesis, and preparing for marriage to her fiance Sam. But thoughts of the end of the free life, and a potential summer fling, intrude. She goes home to her grandmother, where, over the making of her wedding gift by a group of quilting-bee friends, laughter, bickering, love, and advice lead her toward a more open-eyed examination of her course.