Tuesday’s Overlooked Film: Mystic Pizza (1988)

I must be in the mood of coming of age tales lately. This Don Petrie entry was originally released in 1988; I was a pre-teen at the time, and while I remember the film’s theatrical run, it was something that plainly I was not interested in – I was in the waning years of my “Star Wars” phase. Several years on, I caught Mystic Pizza on cable TV and soon learned the error of my ways. Thus making this once “personally overlooked” film a staple in my home video collection.

For those who do not know, the town Mystic, Connecticut and the pizza parlor of the title actually DO exist – several train journeys to New England prove this out. In our story, we explore the lives of three young Portuguese-American women working at the parlor – sisters Kat (Annabeth Gish) and Daisy (Julia Roberts), and their best friend, Jojo (Lili Taylor) as they deal with trials and tribulations of growing up in the seaside community.

A lot is also made of the women’s ethnic heritage in the film, as it is used to constantly contrast with the Anglo-American culture that surrounds them.

When you look back at this film, it is obvious that this was a star-making vehicle for many of the lead actresses, especially Annabeth Gish. While she is perfectly suited for the role and did a great job as the ‘academic’ sibling, Julia Roberts’ free-spirited portrayal of Daisy clearly demonstrates the “it” I am sure so many Hollywood producers clamor for. I know it sounds trite now, given the 22 years of perspective and all, but you can kind of see it.

So if you have overlooked this title, I recommend seeking it out.

Fun Facts:

  • A teenaged Matt Damon appears in one scene of the film as one of the girls’ beau’s younger brother. He has one line.
  • Julia Roberts dyed her locks dark brown/black for the role.

 


Please be sure to check out Todd Mason’s blog, Sweet Freedom, for more overlooked and under-appreciated titles.


“Mirror, Mirror” On the Wall, is this Movie Fair at All?

Mirror, Mirror is live, fresh take on the Snow White fairytale. This statement alone begs me to ask, “Is this necessary?” and “what new life can be brought to draw folks in?” Well, as directed by Tarsem Singh (Immortals, The Cell) with a screenplay by Marc Klein (Serendipity), Mirror, Mirror hopes to deliver to its audience a family friendly film that has just the right blend of humor, action and suspense to leave all audience members leaving the theater satisfied with their viewing experience. That frankly is quite a hill to climb, and at least for me, it ultimately missed the mark.

As I mentioned in my opening paragraph, Mirror, Mirror is a re-imagining of the classic fairytale with more than a few twists – one of these twists includes the characterization and dynamic between Snow White (Lily Collins) and The Handsome Prince Alcott (Armie Hammer). Snow White is mainly a sweet, retiring orphan forced to live under her Evil Queen of a stepmother’s (Julia Roberts) rule, but when banished from the kingdom and left for dead, gains an independent spirit and becomes a force to be reckoned with. For his part, the Prince is somewhat emasculated when compared to his source material’s counterpart. When they are together, it is portrayed more as a partnership of equals; there is no real “rescuing” here. For an added touch, the Seven Dwarfs are no longer the affable woodland dwellers that reside in many an imagination. Here, they are a group of gruff, thieving, lawless outsiders, rejected the kingdom when the Evil Queen declares them as not being “pretty enough.” Not to worry – this is a modern telling of the story after all, so there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

So it begs to be asked, just who is this film for? It seems to position itself with the tween crowd, as some of the humor and references may be over the head of anyone younger than 10 years of age. Therein lies the difficulty of course.

I should state for the record one certainty – I am NOT the target demographic for this film. Luckily for me, there was a group of Girl Scouts seated in my row at the press screening I attended last week. Now if I use them (particularly the older, apparently teenaged girls) as a barometer of the film’s ‘aims,’ then YES, this was a fun and entertaining film. Even some of the adults (including myself) had a chuckle or two. But for everyone else outside and in between I am not so sure. Note that there are a couple of tense/threatening/imperiled moments in the film, but nothing extraordinary. However, as I have alluded to, keep in mind that some of the material may not be suited for your progeny (Note: the film was rated PG).

Given the material, the acting by the ensemble was perfectly adequate, but nothing extraordinary. And for as much was made of Julia Roberts “going bad” in her portrayal of the Evil Queen, but as you may have guessed by now, it is principally a comedy evil.

I am familiar with but have not seen any of Mr. Singh’s previous films that include the “swords-and-sandals” romp Immortals as well at the Jennifer Lopez psychological thriller The Cell. Based on his previous work, I would say that selecting him to do a film such as Mirror, Mirror is a curious choice. But hey, Robert Rodriguez was able to helm the relatively successful Spy Kids franchise.

On the bright side (and I mean REALLY bright), the costumes and sets were gorgeous. However, there was heavy reliance on CGI – a little too much at times for my taste.

In the end, the sums don’t add up for me, I am afraid.

 

An American Version of "Love Actually?"

I recently saw the trailer for a Valentine’s Day 2010 release of the same title. The trailer made me think (as I suspect many, many others thought) about what is in my mind the quintessential, ensemble cast, romantic comedy, 2003’s Love Actually. I love this movie. And on the basis of the trailer for Valentine’s Day, it makes me appreciate Love Actually all the better.

Don’t take my word for it, watch the trailer.

Tell me what do you think?