How to Make an American Quilt (1995) from Tuna

As explained in more depth in my essay on date movies, there is an identifiable cut-off point at which a film stops being a date movie and becomes an estrogen film, and that point can be determined by subtracting the male rating from the female rating at IMDb. If the result is less than .9 - it still could be a date movie. French Kiss and Moonstruck are at .8 - women like them better than men, but not so much better that the difference will provoke arguments. Those two films will shrink a man's penis by several inches, but will not actually cause it to fall off. A score of .9 or more leads us into heavy estrogen territory, however, and can be considered the equivalent to chemical castration. Fried Green Tomatoes, Kate & Leopold, and The Way We Were all check in at .9.

American Quilt is also at .9 - an entry-level estrogen film.

Within the category of estrogen films, the two major sub-categories are teeny-bopper films (Legally Blonde, Dirty Dancing), and granny films (Ya-Ya Sisterhood, Beaches). Both are more popular with women, but in the teeny-bopper category, the film attains its highest scores from people under 18. In the granny category, the film scores highest with people over 45.


Here's a look at it:

  Legally Blonde Ya-Ya Sisterhood
men 6.6 6.0
women 7.6 7.5
18- 7.5 6.9
18-29 6.6 5.9
30-44 6.8 6.9
45+ 6.9 7.6
In addition to the objective criteria defined above, there are some more subjective ways to separate a granny flick from a teeny-bopper flick.

How many laughs are there, for example?


Joanna Going shows her breasts and buns in a flashback scene
I don't know the reasons, but the older the audience and the more female the audience, the less humor is employed. Older people rarely go to the funniest films available. This is not a uniquely female gender characteristic. Men are the same way. Guys who loved "Animal House" when they were young don't retain that same sense of cutting-edge humor as they age. They still remember how funny Animal House and Blazing Saddles were, but they can't see the equivalent hilarity in Road Trip or Not Another Teen Movie. The problem is multiplied for women, however because women often consider humor to be a negative factor in evaluating a movie. If you look at the most romantic movies, you'll see that the funniest ones (Annie Hall, Manhattan, Casablanca) are always scored higher by men than women.

So what about American Quilt?

American Quilt has nothing even remotely resembling humor, except for the usual stock granny remarks, variations on the old wives' tales and urban legends that appear in every granny film. (What I like to call "men getting lost because they won't ask for directions" humor). I don't think you can call this "humor' so much as "shared female folklore" - sort of a gender bonding thing, similar to men's unyielding belief that women don't drive as well, despite their lower insurance rates.

Compare that humorless approach to Legally Blonde, which is obviously a pink film, but which also made me laugh a few times with a range of humor far beyond the "female folklore" level. To me, subjectively, American Quilt seems like a humorless granny film. It also stars Ellen Burstyn, who is the granny of grannies. She is to Granny flicks what Eastwood is to Spaghetti Westerns. It also stars a whole bunch of additional real grannies, which adds to the silver luster.

There is another way to look at the demographics. Consider the table below:


WOMEN American Quilt Ya-Ya Sisterhood
women 18- 6.7 8.4
women 18-29 6.6 7.2
women 30-44 6.4 7.4
women 45+ 7.4 8.4

American Quilt seems like a pure granny film, while Ya-Ya Sisterhood seems to appeal to the grandmothers and granddaughters alike.

The strangest thing about American Quilt is the odd distribution of the male votes:


MEN American Quilt Ya-Ya Sisterhood
men 18- 6.4 5.1
men 18-29 5.7 4.9
men 30-44 5.6 6.4
men 45+ 5.7 7.5

See where this is going? Young men like American Quilt much more than they like Ya-Ya. But older men like Ya-Ya  much better. To look at it another way, women like American Quilt more as they get older. Men like it less as they get older - to the point where, even though it is an obvious chick-flick, it is rated the same by boys under 18 as it is by women 30-44.

Perhaps young boys like Joanna Going's sexy nude scene in the PG-13 rated American Quilt? I don't know, but it isn't that often that you can see some hot naked flesh in a film your mom wants you to watch.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • widescreen letterbox, 1.78:1

Anyway - is this film any good? I don't know. You're asking the wrong person. I found it completely unwatchable. The female characters are romanticized, and the male characters are cardboard props. To give you the idea, the film is about a women (Winona Ryder) who is about to be married, but her future groom is barely listed in the cast. She visits a bunch of grannies who are quilting her wedding quilt. They spin some homespun wisdom based on flashbacks to their own romantic pasts, and Winona learns to follow her heart, or someone else's heart, or something.  I forget now, but I'm sure it was some profound shit. 

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: two stars. Ebert 2/4, Berardinelli 3/4, 1.5/5

The People Vote ...


IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a C, I suppose. Good production values. Older women seem to like it, for reasons not completely clear to me, probably because I am a vagina-impaired American.

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