Crimes of the Heart (film)

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Crimes of the Heart
Crimes of the heart.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byBruce Beresford
Produced byFreddie Fields
Screenplay byBeth Henley
Based onCrimes of the Heart
by Beth Henley
Music byGeorges Delerue
CinematographyDante Spinotti
Edited byAnne Goursaud
Distributed byDe Laurentiis Entertainment Group
Release date
  • December 12, 1986 (1986-12-12)
Running time
105 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$20 million[1]
Box office$22.9 million[2]

Crimes of the Heart is a 1986 American black comedy-drama film directed by Bruce Beresford from a screenplay written by Beth Henley adapted from her Pulitzer Prize-winning 1979 play of the same name. It stars Diane Keaton, Jessica Lange, Sissy Spacek, Sam Shepard, Tess Harper, and Hurd Hatfield. The film's narrative follows the Magrath sisters, Babe, Lenny and Meg, who reunite in their family home in Mississippi to regroup and settle their past. Each sister is forced to face the consequences of the "crimes of the heart" she has committed.

Crimes Of The Heart was theatrically released by De Laurentiis Entertainment Group on December 12, 1986. It received positive reviews with critics praising its screenplay and performances (most notably of Spacek's), but was a box office disappointment; grossing $22.9 million on a $20 million budget. The film received three nominations at the 59th Academy Awards; Best Actress (for Spacek), Best Supporting Actress (for Harper), and Best Adapted Screenplay. At the 44th Golden Globe Awards, it received a nomination for the Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, with Spacek winning Best Actress.


The story focuses on the Magrath sisters—Lenny, Meg, and Babe—who reunite at the family home in Hazlehurst, Mississippi, after Babe shoots her abusive husband. The three were raised by Old Granddaddy after their mother hanged herself and the family cat and have been eccentric ever since. Lenny is a wallflower who bemoans her shriveled ovary. Egocentric Meg is a singer whose Hollywood career ended abruptly when she suffered a nervous breakdown. Unruly and impulsive Babe shocks her sisters with stories about her affair with a teenage African American boy. Past resentments bubble to the surface as the women are forced to deal with assorted relatives and previous relationships while coping with the latest incident that has disrupted their dysfunctional lives.



Box office[edit]

The film opened on 246 screens in the US and earned $1,402,921 on its opening weekend. It eventually grossed $22,905,522 in the United States and Canada.[3]

Critical reception[edit]

Crimes of the Heart received positive reviews among critics. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times called the film "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 underlying tone ... is a deep, abiding comic affection, a love for these characters who survive in the middle of a thicket of Southern Gothic clichés and archetypes."[4]

Rita Kempley of The Washington Post described it as "Hannah and Her Sisters with a southern accent, a lilting gingerbread gothic with Diane Keaton, Sissy Spacek and Jessica Lange ding-a-linging harmoniously as Dixieland belles" and added, "Playwright Beth Henley has no dire message for us, but her adaptation is nicely restructured, glib as all get-out and character-wise ... The powerhouse performances are directed by Bruce Beresford, who maintains balance among the actresses and keeps a lovely tone and smooth pace. As with his critically acclaimed Tender Mercies, the Australian director again looks at American types with a fresh eye."[5]


Award Category Nominee(s) Result
59th Academy Awards
Best Actress Sissy Spacek Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Tess Harper Nominated
Best Adapted Screenplay Beth Henley Nominated
44th Golden Globe Awards Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Freddie Fields Nominated
Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical Sissy Spacek Won
Kansas City Film Critics Circle Best Actress Won
New York Film Critics Circle Awards Best Actress Won


  1. ^ DE LAURENTIIS REJOINS THE RANKS--AT EMBASSY: DE LAURENTIIS: EMBASSY Friendly, David T. Los Angeles Times 16 Nov 1985: e1.
  2. ^ De Laurentiis PRODUCER'S PICTURE DARKENS: KNOEDELSEDER, WILLIAM K, Jr. Los Angeles Times 30 Aug 1987: 1.
  3. ^ "Crimes of the Heart (1986) - Box Office Mojo". Retrieved 1 May 2018.
  4. ^ Ebert, Roger (December 12, 1986). "Crimes of the Heart". Ebert Digital LLC. Retrieved May 1, 2018.
  5. ^ Kempley, Rita (December 12, 1986). "'Crimes of the Heart'". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 1, 2018.

External links[edit]