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Terms of Endearment is about three relationships and students of screenwriting would do well to study the way in which these three stories are told completely and effortlessly in a movie of average length.
[Writer-director James L. Brooks] has television in his soul: his people are incredibly tiny (most are defined by a single stroke of obsessive behavior), and he chokes out his narrative in ten-minute chunks, separated by aching lacunae.
It takes all of perhaps five minutes to fall in love with the leading characters in Terms of Endearment and from that point on, the audience is just putty in the extremely capable hands of writer-director James L. Brooks.
Its quirky rhythms and veering emotional tones are very much its own, and they owe less to movie tradition than they do to a sense of how the law of unintended consequences pushes us ceaselessly through the years, permitting no pause for perspective.