At our house we savor “guilty pleasures,” those over-the-top movie experiences that may escape critical raves in their pursuit of delivering pure entertainment.
Luckily, this week’s menu of movies available on television and cable brings us many of these films that we can enjoy over and over again.
Here are a few to consider.
Hardly a week at the movies goes by without a visit to Truvy’s beauty parlor to spend time with the women of Natchitoches, Louisiana. Yes, the women of this town possess all the sense, love and tears that local people need to get through the day, always supporting each other with a Southern witticism that crystallizes what healthy living should encompass. Sally Field headlines a sublime cast in this movie adaptation of the Robert Harling play — based on his life with his sister — that reveals the strength that women bring to any challenge. Filled with rich characters and delicious one liners, Magnolias remains a fresh movie experience because it never entertains at the risk of bypassing the truth. While it’s filled with laughs, we watch it over and over again because the characters and their hopes ring so true. With Shirley MacLaine, Olympia Dukakis, Dolly Parton and a young Julia Roberts at their most endearing.
Saturday, March 22, 3 p.m., Oxygn
Sleeping With the Enemy
Within seconds of the completion of Steel Magnolias, moviemakers realized that Julia Roberts — who plays Sally Field’s daughter in the film — was destined to become a big star. So the studios got to work finding a vehicle to showcase Roberts’ unique mix of beauty, humanity and vulnerability, a movie in which she could flash that famous smile as well as move us to tears. While Sleeping With the Enemy is about as trashy as a true “guilty pleasure” can be, it’s also immensely re-watchable thanks to Roberts’ willingness to fully commit to the character and her outrageous choices. Never mind the slim story of how a woman escapes the trap of a hostile marriage is filled with as many holes as a piece of Swiss cheese. Simply savor the credibility Roberts brings to every moment.
Saturday, 5:30 p.m., Oxygn
Any chance to watch the great Jane Fonda at work is worth whatever plot we must endure. She is such a commanding actress, no matter the material, who only gets more interesting with time. This film could have been quite good. Certainly Fonda is in her element as an outspoken woman who knows what her irresponsible granddaughter needs to find her way in the world. And Felicity Huffman, fresh from what should have been her Oscared performance in Transamerica, convinces us of an alcoholic’s frailty. But Lindsay Lohan, during one of her more vulnerable periods, is so irresponsible in her performance that she undermines the credibility of the piece. Had she been up to the challenge, or been recast from an actress who could be reliable, Georgia Rule might have become more than an interesting curiosity on Fonda’s movie list. But anything on Fonda’s list is worth checking out.
Sunday, March 23, 3 p.m., Lifetime
Daniel Day Lewis can do just about anything. As the only Academy Award winner of three Oscars for Best Actor, this most creative of performers brings a unique point of view to any character he plays. But the man can’t sing. Nor can he dance. And, to be believable in a musical, some suggestion of the two is quite helpful. So he’s all wrong to play the movie director at the center of Nine — Rob Marshall’s frightening but enjoyable translation of the Broadway play — even though he tries very hard. What the actor doesn’t bring — that Raul Julia did in the original Broadway production and Antonio Banderas brought to the revival — is mystery. Day Lewis lets us know everything we need to know about the character from his opening moments. And that rarely works in any movie and it certainly doesn’t work in a musical where every nuance must focus on reaching at 11 o’clock number. Day Lewis checks out at 8:45.
Sunday, 3:30 p.m., Sundance
Costume dramas are always great fun at the movies, especially those where the wigs are powdered, the egos are nurtured and the costumes are decidedly over the top. This would-be biography of the controversial figure in French history carefully avoids any suggestion of serious scholarship. From its opening moments, director Sofia Coppola lets us know she intends to entertain, not educate. So she creates a look at history through the lens of today that, while filled with intentional anachronisms, primarily in its scripting and music scoring, consistently follows a well-developed view that Antoinette was a victim of excess, not a villainess of hatred. While those who lived through the period might question some of the filmmaker’s choices, Coppola knows what she wants to make, and doesn’t let anything — certainly not fact or convention — get in her way.
Sunday, 1 p.m., Sundance
Sharing worthwhile movies can be as easy as turning on the television or going online. And, when you watch together, be sure to chat about what you’re seeing. That makes it even more fun.