How to Make an American Quilt

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How to Make an American Quilt
How to make an american quilt.jpeg
Directed by Jocelyn Moorhouse
Produced by Sarah Pillsbury
Midge Sanford
Written by Whitney Otto (novel)
Jane Anderson (screenplay)
Starring Winona Ryder
Anne Bancroft
Ellen Burstyn
Kate Nelligan
Alfre Woodard
Maya Angelou
Music by Thomas Newman
Editing by Jill Bilcock
Studio Amblin Entertainment
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release dates October 6, 1995 (USA)
Running time 117 min.
Language English
Box office $41,600,020[1]

How to Make an American Quilt is a 1995 movie which was directed by Jocelyn Moorhouse and stars Winona Ryder, Maya Angelou, Ellen Burstyn and Anne Bancroft. It is based on a novel of the same name by Whitney Otto. In 1996, the film received a nomination for the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture.

Characters[edit]

Finn Dodd[edit]

Main character. Following a proposal of marriage from her boyfriend (Dermot Mulroney), Finn decides to visit her great aunt and grandmother to finish her thesis and think over the proposal. At her grandmother's house, a quilting group congregates, and she's shocked and surprised to discover that the current quilt that they're working on is a wedding gift for when she gets married. The theme of the quilt is "where love resides". As Finn is unsure whether she's ready for marriage or whether he's "The One", the stories of the women in the quilting group open her eyes to the different kinds of love that exist.

Sophia Darling[edit]

When she was young, Sophia (Samantha Mathis/Lois Smith) was a talented diver with dreams of escaping her small town and overbearing mother. One day she meets Preston Richards (Loren Dean) while diving at the local pool and romance ensues. He's attracted by her fearlessness and she believes he can take her away from her current, oppressive way of life. However, motherhood turns out to be just as, if not more, oppressive, and married life soon grinds her down. With three children and little help from her husband who is frequently away because of his job, she no longer has time to dive and eventually forgets the feeling of freedom and escape it gives her. One day she snaps at her husband for digging a pond in the back garden. In an attempt to remind her of the girl he fell in love with, he tells her the pond is for her to wade in. After she rejects his efforts, he realizes that her free spirit is gone. One morning he leaves for work, never to return. Abandoned, bitter, and trapped in a life she didn't want, Sophia ironically ends up like her overbearing mother, particularly in her relationship with Finn.

Years later, when the wind blows part of Finn's thesis into the pond, she wades in to get it. With her feet in the pool, she remembers what her husband tried to remind her of all those years ago, and one of the last scenes shows her diving off the high dive.

Em Reed[edit]

Em (Jean Simmons/Joanna Going) marries young, like most of the women in the story. Despite the promiscuity of her artistic husband Dean (Derrick O'Connor/Tim Guinee), she stays with him for a period of time. Eventually, after discovering yet another affair, she leaves him whilst pregnant. She returns to her parents' home, but it still takes three months before Dean comes to find her. He begs forgiveness yet again, and her parents pack her bags, loading them into Dean's car. At this point, Em has no choice but to return to her broken life.

Years later, she suspects Constance is having an affair with Dean, which causes friction between the two. Later, she realizes that, in his own way, Dean does truly love her when she takes shelter in his studio during a sudden wind storm and discovers numerous paintings of her telling the story of their life together over the years.

Glady Joe and Hy[edit]

Gladiola (Glady) Joe (Claire Danes/Anne Bancroft) and Hyacinth (Hy) (Alicia Goranson/Ellen Burstyn) are Finn’s great aunt and grandmother and sisters to one another. At one point, Hy goes to visit her dying husband in the hospital. Despite her deep love for her husband, she leaves the hospital and sleeps with Glady’s husband (Rip Torn) in a moment of weakness and tragic emotion. After Glady discovers the truth, she smashes every one of her porcelain figurines and plasters them onto the wall of the laundry room as a reminder of her anger. Glady never really forgives her husband and does not forgive Hy until the end of the movie. Their reconciliation is symbolized by the demolition of the plastered walls in the laundry room when Glady realizes that her love for her sister overcomes her feelings of betrayal.

Constance Saunders[edit]

Constance (Kate Nelligan) had a happy and fulfilling marriage until her husband, Howell (Richard Jenkins), died, leaving her a young widow. While he was alive, Howell gave Constance a dog to keep her company. Although it is rumored that she is having an affair with Em's husband, Dean, she knows that her love for her husband and her dog are her true companions. Her panel for Finn's wedding quilt depicts a yellow rose bush under which she and Howell buried the dog after it died.

Anna[edit]

As a young servant, Anna (María Celedonio/Maya Angelou) starts an affair with her boss's son, Beck (Jared Leto), who's visiting from Chicago. She becomes pregnant by him, and when her great aunt finds out about the pregnancy she sends Anna away with their family story quilt (which she had sold to the boss's wife). During her pregnancy, Anna met Glady and Hyacinth when she was taken in by their family. She becomes particularly close with Glady, eventually teaching her to quilt. During one of these quilting lessons, she starts labor, eventually giving birth to Marianna (Alfre Woodard). It's only then that Anna realizes that her fancy notion of romantic love was nothing in comparison to the maternal love she feels for Marianna. Anna now orchestrates the quilting group.

Marianna[edit]

Marianna (Alfre Woodard) gives the appearance of being in love with her promiscuous freedom until a moment of vulnerability comes in a conversation with Finn. She speaks of a man that she met in France. They had met and spent one evening together during which they connected over a meeting of minds before she discovered that he was married. Although she has taken many lovers since, she realizes this man is her soulmate and she doesn't even know his name.

Cast[edit]

Reception[edit]

According to Rotten Tomatoes, most critics and users who reviewed How to Make an American Quilt gave it a positive review.

References[edit]

External links[edit]