Love it or break out in a rash at the thought of it, Terms of Endearment was one fine sob-inducing machine. As Texas force of nature Aurora Greenway, Shirley MacLaine mothered Debra Winger, fooled around with Jack Nicholson, and led the grieving when Winger, as Emma Greenway Horton, expired in one of Hollywood’s great, shamelessly milked deathbed scenes.

How could Terms 2 possibly compete for Kleenex consumption? Working from Larry McMurtry’s follow-up novel, screenwriter-director Robert Harling (whose way with ladies of a certain age was proved with his scripts for Steel Magnolias and The First Wives Club) hopes more deaths will equal even more sobs in The Evening Star. But any crying in response to this unexceptional sequel occurs strictly on a one-tear-at-a-time basis.

We’re still in Texas. Aurora is older but still dressing in her patented, flouncy frocks and chiffon scarves. The grandchildren she has raised are grown, and rebellious Melanie (Juliette Lewis), who looks just like Emma, is reenacting her mother’s life, too, running off to L.A. with a man who will disappoint her. Aurora’s friends now include her devoted housekeeper (Marion Ross) and Patsy (Miranda Richardson), Emma’s great pal, a rich and bored Texas gal who can’t stand to let Aurora have too much happiness.

We are meant to know that Aurora still has her steely charms about her: For a while she beds a much younger man (Bill Paxton); and somewhere down the line her old flame the astronaut (Jack Nicholson) shows up to reminisce, leer, and reenact their famous car spin along the beach. MacLaine storms about, and that amazing Englishwoman Richardson does a fine, funny turn and a slinky Texas accent. Mostly, The Evening Star wants us to know that folks live, they die, and it’s okay to feel. But where Terms let us luxuriate in sentiment, Star keeps shoving helpings of the stuff at us, anxiously watching for our reactions.

Your reaction might be, I’ll cry tomorrow.

The Evening Star
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