'Sweet Magnolias' Review: The empowering drama is a toast to life-long friendships and hopeless dreamy love
Friends are like family and family is forever. But when it's a sisterhood more than a friendship, you can be certain it's forever. Netflix's new romantic drama 'Sweet Magnolias' redefines the meaning of a life-long friendship. Maddie Townsend, Dana Sue Sullivan, and Helen Decatur have been a trio since high-school. In fact, they came to be known as the 'Sweet Magnolias' for the very reason that they were refreshing, innocent, and breezy like sweet magnolias. Some 20 years later, nothing has changed.
Directed by Norman Buckley, Laura Nisbet, and Kelli Williams, Season 1 of 'Sweet Magnolias' highlights the three friends who are well into their 40s, as they navigate their way through life that keeps throwing bombs at them. These bombs are not necessarily bad but are life-altering and sometimes heartbreaking.
But the sisterhood is tight, and it is not about to let any of the magnolias go about life's hardships all by themselves. The three women are each other's rocks and support systems, and come what may, they make sure of abandoning whatever they're doing when any one of them needs a shoulder.
The series is based in the fictional town of 'Serenity', somewhere near Charleston, South Carolina, and ironically as quaint and lovely as the town may seem, it doesn't exactly live up to its name. The population of the town is minuscule, with literally everyone knowing everyone and one person's business becoming everybody's business. As the case with small towns, Serenity is pretty much a rumor mill and gossip spreads like wildfire. However, there exists a strong sense of community, and the people living there are god-fearing, kind, generous, and go out of their way to help their neighbors. But that doesn't mean that there aren't one or two bad apples in the basket.
The 10-episode season stars JoAnna Garcia Swisher, Brooke Elliot, Heather Headley, Chris Klein, Jamie Lynn Spears, and Justin Bruening in the lead roles along with Logan Allen, Anneliese Judge, Carson Rowland, Bianca Berry Tarantino, Dion Johnstone, Chris Medline, and Michael Shenefelt.
Maddie Townsend (Swisher) is a homemaker, whose life completely changed when her husband Bill (Klein) cheated on her with assistant nurse Noreen Fitzgibbons (Spears). Maddie's going through a messy divorce, which has inevitably taken a toll on her, while her trust in the opposite gender has wavered and she's trying to figure out co-parenting her three kids with her daft ex-husband.
Her burdens are shared by her two best friends Dana Sue (Elliott) and Helen (Headley) over a large glass of freshly mixed margaritas over the designated weekly margarita 'Pour it Out' nights. Also, a certain tall-dark and handsome stud-muffin (Bruening) gets her heart-racing, but it's a bit more complicated than that — for one, he's her son's baseball coach and two, she's not sure she's ready to trust another man, yet.
Dana Sue Sullivan is the head chef and proud owner of Sullivan's and her restaurant is the talk of the town. She's been through a lot herself and has sworn to not be anywhere close to men after being burned by one. She's gone through a similar situation as Maddie, having caught her husband cheating as well.
Helen hasn't had it easy either, having been in an 'on and off' relationship with the only man she's ever loved (Shenefelt), who refuses to set his feet on the ground long enough, for their romance to actually take off. She's a family lawyer, who's spent her years of service in fixing other people's families, but not one for herself. The three decide on investing their time and money in a new venture, turning a large ancestral mansion into a spa, and going from best friends to business parts, although it takes a bit of convincing for Maddie to hop on board. Even their kids are good friends with each other, diaper buddies joined at the hip, and all.
The film features significant scenes that instill the importance of the characters — right from the leads, down to every single supporting character. It is rather wholesome, the way each of the characters dominates the plot. You can gauge by the depth of the storyline that a scene would feel empty without the support from characters that are not central to the story but are very much the spices needed to give the plot the kick it needed.
'Sweet Magnolias' is a heart-warming tale of an unconditional bond between friends and second chances. The screenplay is very well-written, based on the novels of the same name by Sherryl Woods, with solid and thought-provoking dialogues — some of which are bound to make you reevaluate your perception of things. Further, the film is an empowering story of three women who have been through hell. Yet their resilience, determination, hard work, and self-sufficiency speak for themselves.
The series is charming and a bit of an emotional ride, but you can also say that it is akin to a mirror, where you're looking at yourself and a bunch of your close friends. It could fill you with a sense of longing, where you say "That's who I want us to be 20 years in the future," and for some, it could be a nostalgic trip down memory lane like, "That's how we used to be."
The musical scores throughout the series comprise a library of some of the best country tunes and love songs, because what's a show based in a southern locale, without Dolly Parton crooning in the background? The music gives an added touch of romanticism and the right amount of dramatic flair to make it seem like a show adapted from a true romance novella. It feeds your obsession with love and is the perfect watch when you need to satiate your hopeless-romantic sentiments.
'Sweet Magnolias' is currently streaming on Netflix.