A consistently intelligent (or at least bright), coherently constructed comedy that is on occasion a rather pointed critique of the American education system in the…
"Crimes of the Heart" is that most delicate of undertakings: a comedy about serious matters. It exists somewhere between parody and melodrama, between the tragic and the goofy. There are moments when the movie doesn't seem to know where it's going, but for once that's a good thing because the uncertainty almost always ends with some kind of a delightful, weird surprise.
The film is based on Beth Henley's play about the intrigues, se crets and scandals of three sisters, the MaGraths, who are brought together for a reunion on the occasion of Babe MaGrath's decision to shoot her husband (Beeson Carroll).
The film takes place mostly in the MaGrath family home, one of those sprawling Southern manses with gazebos and cupolas and lots of staircases and corners where little girls can hide and giggle. Now the girls are grown, but their games continue, and they gossip and confide about infidelities and adulteries, scandals and betrayals. These are no ordinary girls. Their mother got national front-page publicity for hanging herself and the family cat at the same time.
The sisters are played by Diane Keaton, Jessica Lange and Sissy Spacek, and all the time they were making this movie I kept dreading the possibility that it would turn into a series of star turns and one-upmanship. Not a chance. Through some miracle of chemistry, the three actresses seem bound by a history of conspiracy almost from the first shot. They create such an effortless ensemble that I was able to believe they were sisters, despite their physical differences. The supporting cast also seems at home in the long, sick family history: Tess Harper has a couple of wonderful scenes as Chick Boyle, the scandalized cousin who lives next door; Sam Shepard turns up as one of Lange's many lovers, and David Carpenter has a lot of fun as the family lawyer who has to deal with some steamy photographs.