Steel Magnolias (Ultra HD 4K Blu-ray)

A young beautician, newly arrived in a small Louisiana town, finds work at the local salon, where a small group of women share a close bond of friendship, and welcome her into the fold.

May 10, 2024 8 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton and Fusion3600

Plot: What’s it about?

In a small town in Louisiana, a circle of friends deals with the issues of life and attempt to enjoy themselves at the same time. If something happens in this small town these friends know about it and the most talked about event at the moment is the marriage of their own, Shelby (Julia Roberts). Shelby is a newlywed and is also pregnant and while there is much happiness surrounding these happenings, there is also some grief and worries. Shelby’s mother M’Lynn (Sally Field) is worried to no end about her daughter’s upcoming childbirth, as it could be fatal due to Shelby’s diabetic condition. In an effort to calm her fears and find some joy within the situation, she looks to her friends for support and fellowship. And like it should be, her friends are always there for her and do whatever they can to cheer her up and support her emotionally. Whether these women are congregating at Truvy’s Beauty Parlor or just sitting on their porches, they always reassure and comfort one another no matter what the issue at hand.

This is without a doubt the quintessential “chick flick” and now it has made the journey to 4K. This movie is not among my favorites by any stretch of the imagination, but when I watch it I can understand why so many people love, and hate this film. The acting is powerful and very realistic, which is good since this is a character driven movie and I think even Dolly Parton puts on a good show here. Where the line is drawn between haters and lovers of this film is the emotional and sentimental content. There are movies that use emotional events to evoke their audiences, but this one goes beyond the barriers most films would balk at. This film uses whatever it can to make the viewer go through the motions, which works for some and enrages others. If you’re the type of movie fan who takes a box of tissues with you to the theater then this movie is for you, but if you’re not interested in prefabricated emotional content keep this one out of your hands. I think this is a solid movie and the best of the emotional “chick flick” genre, but I am unsure if it will remain in my personal collection. I recommend this film as a rental to those interested and fans will want to run out and buy this terrific disc as soon as they can.

This film was directed by Herbert Ross, who manages to capture the essence of small town living and the folks within that atmosphere. Ross uses some nice visual techniques in this movie, but never resorts to flashy or overbearing styles. This is good because it makes the film seem more relaxed and natural, we can focus on the movie instead of the camera’s movements or unusual placements. Ross knows his way around a character driven comedy and shows in this movie, to be sure. If you want to see more of Ross’ work I recommend The Sunshine Boys, Max Dugan Returns, Boys On The Side, and My Blue Heaven. The screenplay was written by Robert Harling and based on his own play, which means the material stays true to his original intentions. This film features some terrific acting and most of the cast is female, so the guys take the back-seat in this one. Julia Roberts (Pretty Woman, Erin Brokovich) shows her usual charm and solid acting, but she is usually upstaged by her costars. Some of the better performances in this film are given by Sally Field (Forrest Gump, Mrs. Doubtfire), Daryl Hannah (Splash, My Favorite Martian), Olympia Dukakis (Mr. Holland’s Opus, Joan of Arc), and Shirley MacLaine (The Evening Star, Guarding Tess).

Video: How does it look?

Steel Magnolias is presented in a 1.85:1 HEVC 4K image and this is, by far, the best this movie has ever looked, the source print is clean and free from wear signs and I didn’t see any serious compression errors. The colors are based in a natural scope, so while the tones aren’t always super bright they do retain their intended shades. The colors never bleed or seem muted though and flesh tones are warm and normal. The contrast is solid at all times, shadows are complex and detail level is high. This is another excellent transfer from Sony and fans of this movie should be delighted.

Audio: How does it sound?

In case you couldn’t tell from the subject matter, this is a dialogue driven movie and is not the disc you should use to demo your home theater. The musical score uses the surrounds more than anything else, so the included DTS HD Master Audio track is more than adequate for this release. The effects are usually background noise and atmospheric in nature so the surrounds are usually silent unless the music is being played. The dialogue is what counts here and it sounds crisp and clear at all times, with no problems I could detect at all.

Supplements: What are the extras?

It appears as if the same supplements from the DVD/Blu-ray have made the leap here. Nothing new has been included.

  • Audio Commentary – We’ve got a track in the form of a running commentary with director Herbert Ross. This track makes for an interesting but sometimes slow listen, but I am sure those who love the film will enjoy it more than I did.
  • In Full Bloom – This twenty-three minute featurette has been jammed on this release, which consists of interviews spliced with footage from the film. I would have liked more behind the scenes footage, but you can’t win them all.
  • Deleted Scenes – Running six minutes, none of these really added anything to the film – probably why they were cut.
  • Theatrical Trailer

The Bottom Line

The quintessential “chick flick” from the late 80’s has arrived. It’s never really been my cup of tea and I think what Steel Magnolias might be most remembered for is introducing us to two actors: Julia Roberts and Matt Damon. If the movie is your thing, however, it’s never looked this good.

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