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''Marvin's Room'' versus ''The Evening Star''

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If you go by morals, Marvin’s Room is a much better movie than The Evening Star. Marvin’s says to love loving: ”I’m so lucky to have had so much love in my life,” explains Diane Keaton’s Bessie. Star, a Terms of Endearment sequel, selfishly teaches to love being loved: ”I was in a place. I had a daughter. And I was loved,” whispers Shirley MacLaine’s Aurora. But in every other respect, the two tragicomedies fill in the same blanks.

Early on…

in MARVIN’S ROOM/THE EVENING STAR, first-time director JERRY ZAKS/ROBERT HARLING shows us a child rummaging through family snapshots — a theme that returns to POWERFUL/MAUDLIN effect.


LEE (MERYL STREEP)/AURORA bickers with her incarcerated SON HANK (LEONARDO DICAPRIO)/GRANDSON TOMMY (GEORGE NEWBERN) and brings him sweets he doesn’t eat. So we learn independent LEE/AURORA has alienated her KIDS/KID’S KIDS and must accept responsibility.


as LEE AND BESSIE/AURORA AND PATSY (MIRANDA RICHARDSON) passively compete for affection, HANK/MELANIE (JULIETTE LEWIS) gets ticked and steals a car — but returns.


attempting to sort herself out, BESSIE/AURORA visits a quacky specialist, DR. WALLY (ROBERT DE NIRO)/JERRY (BILL PAXTON), who only makes things worse.


in an uplifting moment, BESSIE AND HANK/AURORA AND GARRETT (JACK NICHOLSON) have a heart-to-heart in the backyard, then take a life-affirming joyride on the beach.

In all…

three beloved characters are doomed, including nonsense-sputtering, bushy-eyebrowed former military man MARVIN (HUME CRONYN)/HECTOR (DONALD MOFFAT) and softhearted RUTH (GWEN VERDON)/ROSIE (MARION ROSS).

As things progress…

BESSIE/AURORA insists MARVIN/ROSIE be allowed to die at home — a touching scene has her wearily spilling pills in the kitchen — then she deteriorates herself.


LEE AND HANK/MELANIE, TOMMY, AND PATSY make up with BESSIE/AURORA as the end nears. And the credits roll.