Beth Henley's 1981 play Crimes of the Heart won her a Pulitzer Prize and the New York Drama Critics Award. Jack Kroll, arts critic for Newsweek, hit the nail on the head when he described the production as "a tangy variation on the grits-and-Gothic South of Tennessee Williams, Eudora Welty, and Flannery O'Connor."
Now this bittersweet comedy has been made into a funny, inventive, and affecting film directed by Bruce Beresford (Tender Mercies). Three of America's most versatile and talented actresses they have all won Academy Awards appear in the lead roles: Diane Keaton, Jessica Lange, and Sissy Spacek. Also featured in this Freddie Fields and Burt Sugarman production are Sam Shepard, Tess Harper, David Carpenter, Hurd Hatfield, and Beeson Carroll. Beth Henley wrote the screenplay for Crimes of the Heart.
The three Magrath sisters are from Hazlehurst, Mississippi. Babe, the youngest, has just shot her husband in the stomach after he found her with a young lover. This shocking news casts a cloud over the 30th birthday of Lenny, the spinsterish elder Magrath sister. Her nasty cousin Chick remembers the occasion, but serves up a dose of criticism along with her gift of a box of candy. To make matters worse, Old Granddaddy, who raised the Magrath girls after their mother committed suicide, is dying at the local hospital.
Meg Magrath, the middle sister, arrives from Hollywood, California, where her dreams of becoming a singing star have been shattered. Over a dramatic three-day period, the sisters reminisce about the past, share secrets, and explore their feelings about each other.