Terms of Endearment (1983)

The mother-daughter relationship is extremely layered and complex. All females in nature innately protect and nurture their loved ones, especially their young. This support can conversely be appreciated yet overwhelming at times. During adolescence, their children try to grow and explore their own individuality separate from perceived parental coddling and beliefs. Daughters may experience a great internal struggle, feeling obligated and even guilt in incorporating a sense of their mother’s character while discovering their selfhood. Mistakes, resentment, and conflict between mothers and daughters are imminent in this process. However, respect, love, and care remain at the centre of this relationship. This idea is at the heart of the Academy Award-winning 1983 film “Terms of Endearment” directed, produced, and written by James L. Brooks.


Aurora Greenway (Shirley MacLaine) and her daughter Emma (Debra Winger) have been living in a beautiful home in Houston, Texas since losing a husband and father. They have been the core of each others’ universes for a great deal of time. Emma marries Flap Horton (Jeff Daniels), a local who aspires academia and is also not welcomed into the family by Aurora. The two eventually start a family and move to Des Moines, Iowa for Flap’s career, creating a wide physical distance between mother and daughter. Aurora eventually begins seeing her seeming opposite – the contentious, womanizing neighbour who happens to be a former astronaut, Garrett Breedlove (Jack Nicholson). Throughout multiple life changes and obstacles over a decade, including further pregnancies, affairs, and illness, Emma and Aurora continue to proclaim and treasure their “terms of endearment” towards one another.

This film was nominated for eleven Academy Awards, winning five. Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actress (Shirley MacLaine), and Best Supporting Actor (Jack Nicholson) were the categories nabbing the coveted golden men. The themes in this film surrounding resentment, acceptance, loss,and love are told in a highly relatable manner to all audience members with such care. Shirley MacLaine played Aurora with such heart and earnestness, and we could witness and appreciate her growth as a human being throughout the film. This particular evolution of acceptance is especially towards Jack Nicholson’s character. It is difficult to dissociate the legend that is Jack from many of his roles – his facial expressions, voice, and mannerisms are so unique and distinct. He often plays the ladies’ man with an edge, as he did in this role. However, we also witnessed his transformation into a devoted confidante. In my opinion, we could appreciate his struggle to make this change, as many individuals are torn in their ability to compromise in any new relationship. Overall, “Terms of Endearment” showcases the quintessential human experience through multiple stages of the life cycle.


I do not own any of the photos in the post. As well, this post is part of the Here’s Jack Blogathon hosted byย Realweegiemidget! Please check out other great posts celebrating the 80th birthday of the legend that is Jack Nicholson! As well, it is Shirley MacLaine’s 83rd birthday today, so let’s also toast to her acting excellence!



13 thoughts on “Terms of Endearment (1983)

  1. Such a sad film. I love Jack’s performance in this because he gets to show his softer side. I love the scene at the hotel where Garrett’s travelled out specially to see Aurora, and he sees her and hugs her on the steps. The “give my daughter the shot!” scene gets me every time I watch.

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  2. Pingback: And Onto the Final Day of Here’s Jack Blogathon – Realweegiemidget Reviews Films TV Books and more

  3. I really need to see this. I just finished reading another excellent review of this film, and both of you had such interesting thing to say about this film. I liked how you focused on the mother-daughter relationship which can, indeed, be complex at times.

    Thanks for putting this film at the top of my radar! ๐Ÿ˜‰

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  4. This is a great movie – it hasn’t moved me to tears, but it certainly is the kid of movie that will move my mother to tears! Well, I even got to understand my own mom a little bit better after watching Terms of Endearment.
    Very good review!

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  5. I think Terms of Endearment is a very likeable film. Director Brooks makes sure that we feel the exact depth of the ties between mother and daughter: not just in dialogue but in their mannerisms and reactions, all of the little unspoken ways we can tell these two women are uniquely bound together (whether they always like each other or not). Itโ€™s all extremely believable and as entertaining as it is heartbreaking. I like the solid mix of both โ€“ which does make it my kind of film.

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  6. Pingback: As Good As Jack Gets : The Here’s Jack Blogathon Recap – Realweegiemidget Reviews Films TV Books and more

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