Movie Review: Is SWEET MAGNOLIAS Really Sweet?

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SWEET MAGNOLIAS follows three friends, Maddie Townsend, Helen Decatur and Dana Sue Sullivan, who grew up and now work and raise their families in the small town of Serenity, South Carolina. The new series stems from the books series with the same title by Sheryl Woods.

The series opens with Maddie, who is in the middle of her divorce proceedings. Her almost ex-husband, Bill (Chris Klein), a doctor, cheated on her with his nurse Noreen (Jamie Lynn Spears of ZOEY 101). Even though Maddie’s circumstances seem crummy, she’s got a great support system in her friends. During this time, Maddie’s caught the eye of her son’s baseball coach, Cal Maddox (Justin Bruening of the faith-based movie INDIVISIBLE).

Helen, an accomplished lawyer, wrestles with the desire to have children of her own. She desperately wants her boyfriend to also want children, but he does not seem interested. All the while, Helen seems to take care of everyone’s needs before she addresses her own.

Dana Sue owns and operates a prestigious local restaurant called Sullivans. The expression, “If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen,” certainly applies to Dana Sue’s management style and parenting for her teenage daughter, Annie. As the season ebbs and flows, Dana Sure learns the value of allowing God to do a work in her heart that will benefit the people around her.

Although there’s plenty to keep these three ladies busy, they decide to open up a local spa together with the hope to foster a sense of community pride and more local business.

SWEET MAGNOLIAS does an effective job of creating stakes for each character in each episode.

Episodes 4, “Lay It All Down” and 9, “Where You Find Me,” of season one have the most faith-oriented content with depicted prayer, wisdom from the local pastor and even a scene in a church where a young teen finds solace.

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SWEET MAGNOLIAS follows a predominant moral/Christian worldview. However, for all its “sweet moments,” filmmakers add in a few elements of politically correct and immoral content. For instance, there’s one scene where a gay character kisses his boyfriend on the mouth. In other scenes, Helen and Dana Sue support Maddie’s pre-marital sex with Coach Cal, even though they all attend church regularly.

In terms of foul langue, SWEET MAGNOLIAS uses obscenities and profanities quite sparingly when compared to other Netflix Originals. However, characters sometimes take the name of the Lord in vain or utter expressions like “Thank God,” which muddy the waters between an acceptable way to refer to the Creator of the universe. Most of the time though, the obscenities only come up in the script when characters get heated.

There’s also social drinking in each episode. Maddie, Helen and Dana Sue have an expression, “pour it out,” where they gather semi-regularly to have margaritas and spend time together. A few other times throughout the episodes, characters have wine or liquor to shoot the breeze with friends or while they enjoy dinner. Dana Sue’s daughter, Annie, drinks at a party, but feels the remorse of her poor actions and confesses she didn’t enjoy the experience.

Each teenager in SWEET MAGNOLIAS has a compelling character arc. It seems that most of them follow a moral compass and have a strong awareness of right versus wrong, which is a refreshing to see these days.

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