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Queen of the Steel Magnolias

Gail Choice | 9/12/2012, 5 p.m.

I've always liked the movie "Steel Magnolias," the rich colorful characters gave audiences a glimpse into the everyday lives of women who one way or another were dealing with the issues life was throwing at them. It didn't matter to me that they were White women, after all in 1989 there were not a lot of "slice of life" movies starring Black women.

Fast forward to 2012 and the movie "Steel Magnolias" is back and starring an all-Black cast. Lifetime's original movie "Steel Magnolias," is a television adaptation of the iconic play and 1989 film of the same name.

The movie is executive-produced by Golden Globe and Grammy Award winner Queen Latifah. She says she's nervous, but in a good way and she wants to do a great job, and she's "tuned up to make it very special in a Queen Latifah way."

Latifah has a knack for bringing just the right type of movie to the screen that appeals to just about every woman's sensibilities. "Just Wright" and "The Last Holiday" are just two examples of movies that exemplify great "chick flicks."

Latifah assumes the very dramatic role Sally Field made famous as M'Lynn, the distraught mother, whose strength was the foundation of the entire film. Latifah believes she's ready to take on the powerful role.

And double props for Latifah, because she puts folks to work, in front of and behind the camera. Lifetime's "Steel Magnolias" also stars Tony Award winner Phylicia Rashad ("A Raisin in the Sun"), Golden Globe and Emmy winner Alfre Woodard ("True Blood"), Grammy winner Jill Scott, Adepero Oduye, and Condola Rashad, who is the real life daughter of Phylicia Rashad.
In an updated contemporary version, "Steel Magnolias," according to press notes, "chronicles the lives and friendship of six women in Louisiana. Supporting each other through their triumphs and tragedies, they congregate at Truvy's beauty shop to ponder the mysteries of life and death, husbands and children, and hair and nails--all the important topics that bring women together."
I have not seen the movie, but when I read that the movie has been updated to a more contemporary version I shudder because sometimes the update zaps the original appeal of the story. The most recent example of this movie faux pas is "Sparkle."

If it had gone by any other name, I think it would have been a big hit at the box office, because the movie would have been original in its own right. "Sparkle" 2012 had very little to do with 1976's "Sparkle," and it was such a departure that those who were willing to spend money at the box office, stayed away because the buzz was lukewarm.

No doubt Lifetime's "Steel Magnolias" will be just as powerful as its predecessor, because of the outstanding talent that will grace the screen, but I was just as confident that the latest version of "Sparkle" would make an impact on moviegoing audiences, and at best it was just OK. We'll just have to wait and see what Lifetime's "Steel Magnolias" will bring to the table.

Mark your calendars for Lifetime's "Steel Magnolias," premiering Sunday, Oct. 7 at 9 p.m. And to learn more about the film, visit www.mylifetime.com/movies/steel-magnolias.
Gail can be reached at gail@hollywoodbychoice.com