Honest Review of ‘Sweet Magnolias’ on Netflix
Y'all, I was born and raised in Kentucky. It's not the deep south but there were plenty of "y'alls" and "darlins" and "bless her hearts" when I was growing up. A smooth, velvety southern draw spills carelessly from half of my family's lips - while the other half says things like "yous guys" and "soda paaaahhhhp" because they are from northern Wisconsin, doncha know? It's a very strange mix of dialects for sure. I got pretty good at emulating all of them and taking on none of them.
This past weekend, I opened Netflix on my living room TV with the intention of turning Gilmore Girls on so I would have familiar background noise while I was doing my chores. But, before I could scroll down to the "You've already watched this but we know you love it and are rewatching it again" section, something caught my eye.
SWEET MAGNOLIAS - mmmk. Okay, full disclosure, I'm a sucker for Steel Magnolias. I still cry when Shelby dies and her mama has a breakdown and then laugh out loud when Miss Clairee urges M'Lynn to slug Ouiser.
Perfect Recitable Southern Writing ~ Belly Laughs ~ Full on Salty Tears ~ Gut Wrenching Emotion
So, when I read the description, I was intrigued.
Lifelong friends Maddie, Helen and Dana Sue lift each other up as they juggle relationships, family and careers in the small, Southern town of Serenity.
I have a few thoughts since I'm six episodes in... Now, warning - there might be a couple spoilers here but this show isn't terribly nail biting so unless you are just really into who ends up with who, you should be fine.
So as the name suggests, the show is about southern women living in a small southern town. Though all three women have equal billing and equal parts in the show the most interesting story line belongs to Maddie - whose MD husband left her after impregnating the nurse on staff at his private practice. Dana Sue owns, operates, and obsesses over a local eatery, and Helen is a big city lawyer who came home to fix everyone's problems - everyone except her own, it seems.
Now, remember when I told you that these were about southern ladies? I could tell that these southern accents weren't exactly authentic right off the bat. In fact, Brooke Elliott who plays Dana Sue is from Minnesota, JoAnna Garcia Swisher who plays Maddie, is from Tampa, FL, and Heather Headley who plays Helen is from Trinidad then moved to Ft. Wayne, IN. In fact, most of the dialogue and gestures seem a bit forced possibly because it is an adaption of the book series by the same name. It kind of feels like you are watching a play or a Hallmark movie.
The ladies purchase a local historical mansion with plans of turning it into a ladies-only spa and gym which is right in the nick of time since Maddie was fresh off the stay-at-home mom boat and needs a job to start supporting her family sans Dr. Bill. Whew, crisis one averted.
And what southern romance streaming show is complete without a little courtship tension and make out action? Poor Maddie - dashing Dr. Bill (geez, all I can think of is American Pie) chooses to "do the right thing" and marry sweet little Noreen played by Jamie Lynn Spears. Newsflash DR. BILL - the right thing is to not cheat on your wife in the first place. Thankfully, within only months of her tragedy, a dashing former pro baseball player turned high school coach comes knocking at her door. Whew, crisis two averted.
And, as you can imagine, hanging out with a smoldering retired pro athlete makes it easier to not hate the tart who stole your man. Alright, I'm being a little salty for Maddie (Oh, also an American Pie alum). She's sweet and gracious and kind. I'm like that overprotective friend who is allowed to hate him forever. But seriously - I'm afraid that hot, single, rich, sweet dudes don't just show up at your doorstep. THEY DON'T! As my husband would say, "Ash, that's why it's a TV show. It's FICTION." He also made gagging and dying noises all through the last 10 minutes last night when he came to bed. So, there's that.
Now, Maddie isn't the only one with a little hot sauce in the pan. These are three single southern women who also have single moms and single daughters and single sons. There are love triangles everywhere! You can cut the romantic tension like a knife through warm butter. I'm not mad about that in the least. Suspending reality is what TV is all about, right?
And speaking of families, the dynamic between these ladies and their children is much more realistic than the attempts at the accents. Being a single mom is no joke - especially when the divorce is fresh. Teens aren't terribly communicative with parents even in the best of times - but when relationships are complicated by big changes, peer rivalry, and pressures in sports well, good luck. There's nothing worse than watching a TV show where mom and kids are besties all the time cracking jokes. That's one reason why I like Gilmore Girls - everyone acts like an butt-face now and again. They eventually work it out but it's not without bumps in the road. Remember when Rory didn't talk to Lorelei for like the entire season? Uncomfortable. But she didn't give in! Sweet Magnolias addresses the individual parent-child relationships and works through them slowly. Then there's also the story-line of Helen who has remained childless and hides her grief fairly well. My guess is that she won't be in this predicament forever. She's got a couple dudes after her too.
Finally, they also throw in a few real-life stressors that women face. Health issues, overwhelming gossip, work harassment, old high school frienemies who still have a chip on their shoulder. The usual day-to-day in a charming southern town!
So, all in all - the show is pure Cheeze Wiz. There are a couple of "damns" and the adult form of "bull-hockey" among other minor curse words which is what earned it a TV-14. There's also that scandal with Dr. Bill and Noreen. My daughter is seven - she's watching it with me. She asked me about some of the story lines and I'm candid with her. In the end, she asked me to change it because it was too boring and slow for her. But, she also adores My Little Pony and those terrible Youtube kids shows.
Honestly, if you are looking for laughs or a windy mysterious story-line you won't find it here. (Check out Dead to Me if that's what you're into.) It's pretty much a drawn out version of a Hallmark movie. But it's easy to watch. It gives you some butterflies when you watch characters kiss for the first time. It's charming and it leaves you in a good mood. One reviewer compared it to a Southern casserole: not terribly spicy - or saucy - or any distinct flavors. Just a big mix of plot lines that boil down to the TV equivalent of comfort food.
I'll admit it. I look forward to finishing the series and am excited for season two. Hopefully, those gals relax in their roles a bit and the writers throw in a few good southern jokes to keep the magnolias on their toes.