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A Private Matter 1992
Description: The real storyline of Romper Room host "Miss Sherri" Finkbine, who, after the devastating results of thalidomide were discovered in the early 1960s, sparked a firestorm of controversy with her determination to receive an abortion.
Released: 20 Jun 1992 Director: Joan Micklin Silver Writers: William Nicholson Actors: Sissy Spacek, Aidan Quinn, Estelle Parsons, Sheila McCarthy Genres: Drama
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A Private Matter Reviews:

Sissy Spacek plays true life Sherri Finkbine in Phoenix Arizona in 1962, Miss Sherri on television's Romper Room. She finds that by having taken thalidomide tranquilisers, she has endangered her unborn baby, and she gotta decide whether to abort, as there is a powerful possibility that the kid will be severly deformed. The law on abortion in Arizona is that it can only be done when the birth presents a risk to the mother's life, and the sentence for an illegal abortion is 2 - 5 years in jail. The teleplay by William Nicholson initally presents Sherri as a progressive woman, working vs the wishes of her husband (Aiden Quinn), though we might think the cost of feeding their 4 kids would demand both parents be employed. However as the narrative enfolds and the stress of the case impacts on the couple, we observe the weaknesses in the base relationship. Her mother (Estelle Parsons) praises Sherri as a "good girl", someone who has been selfless, but Sherri reveals that this has been something she has created to conceal her real rebellious nature. Sherri also feels disempowered by the patriarchal system of husband and doctors and judges who wish to control what she does with her body. Nicholson uses the Finkbone husband and wife to reinforce stereotypes of boys as unemotional and rational, and girls as the opposite. He also repeats Quinn's line "Do we have to do this now", as "We don't have to do this now" in variation, which still doesn't gratis it from being false dialogue, on the lvl of "We can receive beat this thing". Director Joan Micklin Silver's approach seems to determined not to sensationalise that she overdoes the 60's kitsch, opening with When I Fall in Love, giving the girls unflattering hairstyles, using a banal melody score by James Newton Howard, and even hackneyed slow motion as Sherri wars through crowds so we can see how heroic/tragic she is. Apart from Spacek's bursts of edgy anger, and the test of a glove puppet named Krazy Cat which allows her to test a various speaking and singing voice, the only unexpected thing is a woman kids fight. The greatest stage is when Spacek baits Quinn in frustration, screaming in their backyard at 3am, calling him a coward and taunting him to hit her, even if Silver resolves the argument in dull sentimentality. Watch for William H Macy in one scene, here billed as WH Macy, funny as a psychiatrist assessing Spacek.


A nice example of the surprising strengths of made-for-television movies, 1992's "A Personal Matter" is blessed by a typically terrific performance by Sissy Spacek, as well as a truly fascinating true-life story: While hosting the children's tool "Romper Room," a pregnant Sherri Finkbine discovers her unborn kid will likely suffer from malformation, and her decision to even consider an abortion has a domino impact on her career and family life. Like most tv films it doesn't have time for subtlety or nuance, but luckily Spacek can do wonders with even the most abrupt lines, and elevates what should have been a rushed examination of women's choices in the 1960s into a contemporaneously relevant treaty on private agency.


Strong and knockout. See it Spacek ... 10 Quinn ...9 Parsons... 8



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