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Renee Zellweger cries for her mother who is dying of cancer in "One True Thing"

Autumnal angst

Tears flowing at theaters this fall

Web posted on: Thursday, October 22, 1998 3:29:47 PM EDT

From Correspondent Michael Okwu

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Don't be fooled by the titles. The fall movie releases "Life is Beautiful," "Beloved," "Happiness," and "The Celebration" are not what their names suggest.

Instead, these films mine the depths of human emotions and familial misery: the tears, fights, challenges, and dark patterns that sprout with life and death.

It's all part of autumn at the multiplex.

"Fall is traditionally a season where the more thoughtful films get released," says Glen Kenny, chief movie critic for Premiere magazine. "The leaves are turning, they're dying, and everybody's thoughts turn to our own mortality, so everybody wants to go to the cinema and see movies that reflect that."

Perhaps "A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries," but this writer's daughter sure does

Break out the hankies

In "One True Thing," Meryl Streep is a mother dying of cancer. Renee Zellweger plays her career-oriented daughter.

It has been billed as the type of film that makes viewers head straight to the phone to call Mom after watching it.

"Happiness," director Todd Solondz's follow up to 1995's "Welcome to the Dollhouse," is the disturbing and darkly comic story of three middle-class New Jersey sisters and their problems with their families and their sex lives. The film has attracted attention for giving a sympathtic slant to pedophiles.

The Danish film "The Celebration" is anything but the party its title implies. It centers around a family's feud over abuse accusations.

And "Beloved," starring Oprah Winfrey and based on Toni Morrison's novel of the same name, is the story of a former slave visited by the ghost of the daughter that she killed. The movie is stirring difficult emotions in its audiences and actors alike.

"Everything that I've learned, any pain I've been through, any joy I've been through, I think I rehashed it all in order to play this role," said Winfrey's co-star, the actress Thandie Newton.

Another autumn release that has moviegoers weeping is "A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries," based on a novel written by Kaylie Jones, the daughter of author James Jones, who wrote "From Here to Eternity" and "The Thin Red Line."

"Beloved" is filled with wrenching scenes

This is beautiful?

Even the usually comic Italian writer-director-actor Roberto Benigni takes a tragic turn with his new film, "Life is Beautiful," which is set amid the Holocaust.

"The first part of the story is very funny and very full of gags ... then the second part is not a comedy (and) is exactly a real tragedy," Benigni said. "This, to me, was wonderful, the balance."

Actress Nicoletta Braschi said Benigni's film gets to the heart of things.

"At the end, that cry is purifying. It makes you feel better because there is something that gets near to the essence of life and death, so it's a good cry," she said.

The autumn releases make an abrupt change from action movie-oriented summer, when the studios roll out special effects-laden films like this year's "Armageddon," primarily to bring teen-age boys into theaters, Kenny said.

Autumn movies are meant to attract female audiences.

"It's payback time for the women who were dragged to see 'Lethal Weapon IV,'" Kenny said.

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