Fried Green Tomatoes is a 1991 film, a 1987 novel, and a Southern delicacy. I’ll admit I only wanted to watch, read, and eat fried green tomatoes because of a joke made in the Simpsons episode “The Two Mrs. Nahasapeemapetilons.” When Apu asked Manjula what her favorite movie, book, and food was, she cleverly said fried green tomatoes. I’ve eaten authentic fried green tomatoes many times since I’m currently the host of a Southern restaurant. I like them, but they’re not something I’d eat all the time. I also decided to read Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg. Although it took me awhile to understand the format, the book became very engrossing due to its controversial themes and generational story. The story takes place in the past and present with newspaper articles between chapters. The movie has a similar format, but everything is streamlined.
The Past – Most of Fried Green Tomatoes takes place between both World Wars, though the wars are mostly omitted. It follows the strong friendship between tomboy Idgie Threadgoode and Southern belle Ruth Jamison. I’m not too familiar with Mary Stuart Masterson or Mary-Louise Parker, but they both fit their respective characters. Since it was the early 90’s, the movie downplays the obvious lesbian subtext. Race relations are also toned down compared to the book’s liberal use of the “N” word. Though the legendary Cicely Tyson still gets time to shine as their cook Sipsey and Stan Shaw embodies Big George. Characters like prejudice sheriff Grady, kind hearted hobo Smokey, and noble Reverend Scroggins stick around, while other characters are either removed or reduced. Newcomer Chris O’Donnell as Idgie’s brother Buddy makes a stronger impression than the one armed boy who carries on his name. The most intriguing part of this story is a murder mystery involving Ruth’s abusive husband Frank. Let’s just say the outcome is unexpected if you haven’t read the book.
The Present – The rest of Fried Green Tomatoes is framed with elderly nursing home resident Ninny Threadgoode telling the story to middle aged housewife Evelyn Couch. Like the book, these segments ended up being the funniest. After their respective Oscar wins for Driving Miss Daisy and Misery, Jessica Tandy and Kathy Bates ended up giving the best performances in the film. Miss Threadgoode is similar to Miss Daisy, but the difference is Ninny’s fondest for life and sense of nostalgia. When feminist classes fail to spice up her marriage to husband Ed, Evelyn forms a touching friendship with Ninny that inspires her in real life. Evelyn goes through a major transformation after a nasty supermarket encounter. Though the scene is better in the book, it doesn’t take away how impactful it is. Fried Green Tomatoes has two seperate deaths, but only one got me to cry.
In conclusion, Fried Green Tomatoes retains its strong Christian themes, but loses some of its edge with a safer PG-13 rating. Other artistic liberties were taken in order to maintain some of the mystery. While it isn’t the easiest story to adapt, the late Carol Sobieski and Flagg herself were both nominated for Adapted Screenplay. Tandy was nominated for Best Actress, but Bates only received a Golden Globe nomination. If there’s one thing the movie definitely gets right, it’s how hungry you’re guaranteed to be after watching it. Fried Green Tomatoes doesn’t quite have the bite of the novel, but it’s still a very well acted and emotional adaptation.