Unhook the Stars (1996) - This is one of my favorite movies about female friendship, written and directed by Nick Cassavetes.. Two women find solace in each other, as well as support, love, and friendship. Gena Rowlands plays Mildred, a lonely widow whose children are grown and gone. Marisa Tomei plays Monica, a single mom struggling to support her family. The two become friends when Mildred offers to babysit Monica's son J.J. (Jake Lloyd) while she;s at work. It is a mutually beneficial arrangement: Mildred gets to have companionship and to be mothering again, and Monica gets to have a trusting friend and support while working out her issues with work and her estranged husband.
What makes this film special is the performances by Gena Rowlands and Marisa Tomei. Their characters feel like real people, like ordinary people one would know. Rowlands excels at characters who are flawed and touched by life's troubles, yet always carries a sense of class with her, and a sense of inner pride as well. She portrays Mildred as a sweet grandmotherly type who enjoys doting on a quiet little boy, and is a sympathetic and kind person. Tomei is an underrated actress (despite having an Academy Award, she was often written off as a fluke because she won for a comedic role) who can play the funny best friend or the mysterious seductress, and her role as Monica is a great combination of being rough, sexy, and funny. A particularly funny and well-timed scene is when her profane and angry phone call conversation overlaps with a positive family conversation, her retorts syncing up as unintentional responses to innocent family talk.
Besides friendship, the film centers on Mildred's self-discovery as an elderly woman living on her own, and her life is touched by her relationships with Monica and J.J., as well as sweet and flirtatious moments with a local Quebecoise truck driver (Gerald Depardieu). It isn't often to see films that are about elderly people or senior citizens moving into the next phase of their lives after children and spouses have gone, and the film gives hope to the idea that a new beginning is always around the corner, no matter what age. There isn't a major plot to this movie, and there doesn't have to be. With a strong script and talented actors, just people talking about everyday stuff can be fascinating.