SCREENnThe Three Sistersnby Katherine DaltonnCrimes of the Heart; written by BethnHenley; directed by Bruce Beresford;nDe Laurentiis Entertainment Group.nWhen Perseus went to slay the monsternMedusa, advice and presents fromnMinerva and Mercury were notnenough; he had to seek out the Graeaen—three crones with but a single prizedneye they shared between them, whichnPerseus snatched in order to forcenthem to help him. They were helplessnwithout it, bound inextricably to eachnother by their need for it and the bit ofnunderstanding it gave them of thenworld.nNot quite so wizened or foultempered,nbut equally bound to eachnother, are the three crazy MacGrathnsisters. There’s Lenny, the old maidn(played by Diane Keaton); Meg (JessicanLange), the wild one, gone off to try tonget herself a singing career in LosnAngeles; and the youngest. Babe (SissynSpacek), the lithe lady of the family,nthe one who married well, and the onenwho’s just shot her husband.nIn the stomach, and she doesn’tnwant to talk about it. “I didn’t like hisnshnking looks,” she says, and clamsnup. Brought back together by thenemergency of Babe’s arrest, the threensisters are incomplete without eachnother, each needing the support ornneedling (or both) of the others innorder to come to terms with somensmall demons that threaten to turn hernhead or life inside out. Babe’s doingncrazy things with a black boy, Megnwith seemingly just about any boy,nand Lenny’s feeling half mad becausenVITAL SIGNSnthere’s no boy at all. Most of theirntrouble has its roots in a daddy who leftnthem when they were small and in anmother who one day hanged herselfnand her cat right there in the verynbasement. Each in her funny way hasncome home to excise those ghostsn—too many men and her mother’sndeath for Meg, a sour marriage fornBabe, and for Lenny, the fear there’snno more to the future than the present.nHenley has a good ear for catchingnor recreating those moments when thensublime or deadly serious is torpedoednby the ridiculous. It’s the same urge wensometimes have to laugh out loudneven though our best friend is in tears.nIn one scene, Meg trips in after a nightnout with Doc Porter (married to anothernwoman now) to find her sisters atnthe kitchen table looking pretty blue.nThey try to get a word in edgewise tontell Meg that Grandpa’s worsened andnmay be about to make a final exit, butnMeg whizzes on, wrapped up in hernown business as usual, blithely makingnjokes about giving Grandpa a stroke bynfinally coming clean with the truthnabout her nonexistent screen career.nBabe and Lenny, still trying to getnthrough, dam the tide, set Meg downnand tell her the news, finally start tongiggle. Meg plows on, and before longnher sisters are howling. After a longnnight at the hospital they’ve reached anlevel of tension that must find releasenin either laughter or tears, and fornthem it ends up being laughtern—garish but correct. It’s dear, really,nwe like them so much for it, and afterna minute everyone in the audience isnhooting, too.nLange is adequate and no more asnMeg; Keaton endearing but too northernnand dressed too much like anSouthern variation on Annie Hall asnLenny. Spacek, the best actress of thenthree, does nicely as Babe; my onlynnncomplaint is that I’ve heard that samenexact Southern accent in Coal Miner’snDaughter and ‘Night, Mother. Thenspeech coaches have yet to learn thatnthere are as many Southern accents asnthere are hollers, practically, and thatnthe really tricky thing about Southernnspeech is that some of it is so quaintnand thick that if you put it on thenscreen nobody would believe it existed.nVery good is Tess Harper in hernsupporting role as bossy ol’ cousinnChick, smug and tart and just full ofnherself in a way that’s maddeninglynwell done. Also good is Sam Shepardnas Doc Porter; oddly enough, innCrimes it’s these secondary charactersnand some of the throw-away lines thatnplay better than the main themes ornbigger stars.n”Oh, for a beaker full of the warmnSouth,” wrote Keats. With anothernplace in mind. But it still applies ton”all the Souths” because the Southn(unlike the North) is a many thatnmakes up a whole, a thousand realnMcGoy small towns in Alabama and anthousand others, the Souths of somebody’snimagination.nThere are places and especially peopleneven in the border states that are,nlike their accents, so quietly eccentricnyou couldn’t make up anything odder.nWhen a movie is set in Mississippi, asnCrimes of the Heart is, it actuallyndoesn’t matter if the screenwriter orncostumer or set designer get the detailsnright. It’s a nice effort on their part ifnthey do, of course, if only because theynso rarely do, but talent and imaginationnhave a way of making up fornresearch, For Crimes of the Heart,naccuracy or lack thereof is not thenmovie’s problem. Author Beth Henleynis a transplanted Mississippian alivenand well in L.A., and there’s a goodnbit to her characters that rings very truenMAY 1987/47n