Fried Green Tomatoes: Collector's Edition

Fried Green Tomatoes is about people, love, friendship, the South, and defining the difference between a liar and a storyteller. It doesn’t drag on too long, it doesn’t get sappy, and it doesn’t get boring. It is a reflection of the rawest form of humanity, before Hollywood sugarcoats it with shimmering lip gloss, or a makeup crew adds fake blood. It is a story about friends, living in the past and present, and coming together anytime someone needs help. It is a story about nourishment, not just food. It is a story about Idgie and Ruth that deserves to be told. It is true, even if its roots drink from a river of fiction. There is no doubt, Fried Green Tomatoes is one of the best movies ever made. Anyone learning about film, acting, story, or writing should be required to study this piece. The film has humor, drama, romance (without sex), mystery, and a sense of magic that is both haunting and comforting at the same time.

The basis of the story (for anyone that has not seen it) is that Kathy Bates’ character Evelyn, an unhappy housewife, meets Ninny, played by Jessica Tandy, an eighty-two year old woman living in a nursing home with a knack for storytelling. Ninny weaves a tale of Idgie (Mary Stuart Masterson) and Ruth (Mary-Louise Parker) and the lives they lived as friends. These stories in turn bring Evelyn and Ninny closer together to continue the bond Ruth and Idgie had. Fried Green Tomatoes is one of those films you just have to see to understand it’s impact and meaning. There’s no way for me to possibly describe and layout all the aspects of this film that make it so wonderful to watch.

The script is remarkable, the casting and acting is perfect, the settings are amazing and well thought out. There is no complaint I can make about this film (I’m even thankful there’s not a cheapened sequel out there). Everything Jon Avnet set out to do, he not only accomplished, but also excelled. This is not one of those films that I know deep down is not a great movie, but it has sentimental value for me, or makes me think of a certain friend so I watch it repeatedly when I need an emotional boost (like For Richer Or Poorer). This is a film I know I’ll watch over and over, and it has all the essentials that make it an intense picture with marvelously deep characters and historical relevance. Fried Green Tomatoes is a huge cinematic feat (with no CGI or war/combat scenes) and raises the bar for great films everywhere. You know by now, I love the movie. I am, however, disappointed in the features on the disc. But before I go into that, I know the movie came out in 1991, so it’s not like they were preparing shots and montages for a DVD release while they were filming. I get that. What I’m disappointed in is that some of the extras weren’t necessary, and some of them were frustrating from a technical standpoint. For openers, after I got home, full of anticipation and excitement to see this film again, I opened the box and…that was it. One disc. No papers. No scene guide. No coming soon to DVD pamphlet. I know, I know, as much as I hate having too much inside the box, I still feel gypped to have nothing in there waiting for me. And it’s not even a very frilly disc, there’s just text. Anyway, back to the point—the content on the disc.

Let me start with what I loved. Of course, all good movies put their theatrical trailer on the disc, not trailers for three other movies that aren’t remotely similar to the film you’re watching. So there’s the trailer. Excellent. Next, since this is a movie that relates to food, I was thrilled to see Sipsey’s recipes. There are several (twenty, I think) recipes for different Southern foods, which includes Fried Green Tomatoes, and if you click them it will blow the index card up to full screen so you can copy it down. There is also (smart thinking) a DVD-ROM feature for this so you can print the recipes from your computer. Extra nice.

Some other good features are the “Moment’s of Discovery: The Making of Fried Green Tomatoes documentary, and the list of cast and filmmakers. The making of is great and really delves into the purpose of the movie, the locations, different scenes, and includes Mary Stuart Masterson’s bee charming stunt, which she performed herself. This part is filled with several different interviews from practically the whole cast, or at least all of the notable characters: director Jon Avnet, writer Fannie Flagg, Kathy Bates, Jessica Tandy, Mary Stuart Masterson, Mary-Louise Parker, Chris O’Donnell, Stan Shaw, Cicely Tyson, etc. Likewise, the listing of cast and filmmakers is great. With a cast like this you have to include the bios for these actors. You could practically take a pen and paper and make a whole list of “movies to see” just based on these players’ past works.

The audio commentary with Jon Avnet is remarkable! The information he gives helps unfold the dynamic of the characters, place, and story, without ruining any of the magic of this legend. He analyzes each character’s moves, clothing, and script detail so efficiently that it only makes you want to watch the film again so you can pick up on these subtleties yourself. This is the best feature on the whole disc, next to the movie, of course.

Where I started to get disappointed was with the “Director’s Notes”. This is a section where they chunk out a part of the script and show you each page to see what was intended, how they set up a shot, dialogue, and some blocking. The problem is this: each page is displayed for a certain number of seconds and then a new page comes up, but you can’t hit pause to read the whole page before the next one comes. Keeping that in mind, the “Production Photos” and “Poster Campaign” are the same way only in those cases it’s not text, it’s pictures. The difficulty is the same though - I can’t pause (in case I need more time to look at the picture) and I can’t speed up if I’m ready for the next screen to be displayed.

Finally, the “Production Notes”. These would have been good. They consist of pages of text telling about the film and some quotes from the director or an actor here or there. Really good discussion and insightful information…if it wasn’t already talked about in the making of. This feature just repeats what you have already heard. I know it’s hard to fill a disc with extras to please an audience that’s already satisfied, but if you call it a Collector’s Edition, like this is, I would at least like to have all good extras. I’m glad enough to have collected the movie on DVD, but at least make me feel like I got my money's worth on the features. My mouth was watering for Fried Green Tomatoes, but I wasn’t allowed to watch them cook.