When Lifetime announced plans to create a black version of the 1989’s chick-flick tearjerker Steel Magnolias a few months ago we started coming up with a dream cast that could magically be large enough to give work to every black actress in Hollywood yet still stay true to the original story line. It turns out that the network seemed to have at least some of our suggestions in mind, with the upcoming cast including Queen Latifah, Alfre Woodard, Phylicia Rashad, Jill Scott, Adeero Oduye, and Phylicia’s daughter Condola Rashad as Julia Roberts’ former character Shelby.
The film’s backdrop is a hair salon and Southern culture is a prominent theme, both aspects of the original that make it less of a mystery how the network powers that be came up with the idea to do a black version that could be more than just black actresses miming their white predecessors. But is a remake necessary? Probably not.
Steel Magnolias is a good movie, but it is sad. It’s a story of triumph and friendship and love and all of that, but it’s one of those movies you only watch if you’re in the mood for a good cry (add to that list The Joy Luck Club, Terms of Endearment, Beaches, and The Color Purple depending on how many times you’ve seen it). When the film premieres later this year under Kenny Leon’s direction (he also directed the ABC version of A Raisin In The Sun to ABC, so I have to admit how much I fear cheesiness from him), will it ever be able to take the place of the original? Wouldn’t fresh material tug at our heartstrings with considerably more…oomph?