A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Fried Green Tomatoes is a 1991 movie in which a dissatisfied housewife is inspired to change by the exciting stories told to her by an elderly woman in a nursing home. This film is heartwarming but also contains many violent and scary scenes that are probably too much for young kids. Several characters die, including main characters, which may be difficult for sensitive kids or kids who have lost a loved one. The KKK has a presence in the film, whipping one character and threatening another. One main character suffers spousal abuse while pregnant. The subtext is that Idgy and Ruth are lesbian partners, though the film never shows anything that would make that clear. There's occasional profanity, including the "N" word, and drinking and cigarette smoking. While taking a female empowerment class, the instructor and Evelyn's friend make reference to masturbation. The film offers plenty of comeuppance for the bad guys, though, and focuses on the empowerment of women through their bold actions.
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What's the story?
Evelyn (Kathy Bates) is a repressed Southern housewife who downs a dozen candy bars a day to cope with her failing marriage when she meets the frail Ninny Threadgoode (Jessica Tandy) at a senior citizens' home. Ninny tells Evelyn the story of Idgy (Mary Stuart Masterson) and Ruth's (Mary-Louise Parker) life together in the tiny Alabama town of Whistle Stop. Nonconformist Idgy, a young woman prone to wearing men's clothes and gambling, and God-fearing Ruth face abusive husbands, the KKK, and even a murder rap together. Through it all, they raise Ruth's son, Buddy Jr., and learn how important it is to protect those you love no matter what.
Is it any good?
Like all good Southern gothic stories, FRIED GREEN TOMATOES serves up a heaping portion of tall tales, scary situations, and explorations of social issues. The story unfolds in ellipses and fable-like flashbacks that make it both spellbinding and frightening, teaching viewers the importance of altruism.
Fried Green Tomatoes wouldn't be the long-standing favorite it is without the phenomenal performances of some of the day's best actors. Bates, Tandy, Cicely Tyson, and Parker bring this tale to life. They also raise questions about whether the way we deal with issues like homelessness and racial intolerance is much better today.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about empowerment in the characters' lives. Many had to stray from the good opinions of others to feel empowered. Is ignoring your critics a good idea sometimes? Was it a good idea for Idgy? Was it for Ruth? Why or why not? Ruth is also abused by her husband, which may be a good opportunity for parents to talk to kids about what's acceptable in relationships and how to identify someone who's abusive.
How do you think Idgy and Ruth's relationship would be handled today as compared to when this movie came out in 1991?
How did this movie use the "story within a story" form to show how the experiences of the past can illuminate and have relevance to the lives of today?
- In theaters: January 12, 1991
- On DVD or streaming: December 15, 1998
- Cast: Kathy Bates, Mary Stuart Masterson, Mary-Louise Parker
- Director: John Avnet
- Studio: Universal Pictures
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Book Characters, Friendship, History
- Run time: 137 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: violence, thematic intensity.
- Last updated: September 21, 2019
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