Jarv’s Birthday Series: Married to the Mob (1988)
Day 10 in the Birthday Series, and for the most part, I have to say that it has really been going rather well. I had a remarkably easy run into it, and although this patch is a bit sticky, it hasn’t been too much of a challenge. For a recap: this series was devised by Droid in a fit of madness and optimism last year. His rules are simple, using the US release date only, he’s reviewing one film released every year as close to his date of birth as he can. For me, I’ve widened it slightly, and gone with released anywhere (although the vast majority of them are US dates), as I don’t want to write a lot of “samey” reviews and this gives me a wider selection to choose from. The only caveat is that if I have a choice I have to go with the one I haven’t seen. So, with no further ado, here’s my Birthday review of Married to the Mob (release date 19th August 1988 in America).
I would like to start this review by saying that the title of this film is mostly inaccurate. It should be called “Widowed from the Mob”. I suppose, technically, she is married to a mobster, but he gets whacked really early on in the film (which could be considered a pretty final marital termination) and the rest of the run time is her messing around doing various things Therefore, it strikes me as a gross misrepresentation of the film to call it “Married to the Mob”.
Married to the Mob was Jonathan Demme’s mid 80’s screwball comedy. Sporting a glittering cast consisting of Michelle Pfeiffer, Matthew Modine, Oliver Platt, Alec Baldwin, Mercedes Ruehl and Dean Stockwell. Pfeiffer plays Angela De Marco. She’s married to up and coming mobster Frank “The Cucumber” (what the fuck?). His boss, Tony (Stockwell), thinks he’s shagging his mistress (Nancy Travis) and so has him whacked. No sooner has he done so, than he’s trying to shag Angela, who’s having nothing of it and gives away all her stuff before moving her and her son to a run down bit of New York. She then tries to make it alone, but Tony’s crass attempt at nailing her has alerted FBI agents Platt and modine, who put her under surveillance. Modine inevitably falls in love with her, before they all go to Miami and have a big showdown.
This is a crap film. For a start, it’s just not funny. Not in the slightest. The blame for this can be solely attributed to the script which is both pompous and ludicrously heavy handed (this is the second time in two days that I’ve seen something pretending to be light entertainment hiding a “message”). In this case, the vast majority of the film is Angela trying to make it in New York, getting sexually harrassed and taking bottom feeding minimum wage jobs. When they attempt to introduce levity into the film, it’s done through terrible dialogue, such as Angela’s risible exchange in the cop station where she accuses the FBI of being just like the Mafia in that they’re murderous blackmailing scumbags. The reply to this, which is clearly meant to be the joke, is that they’re different because they work “for the President”. The irony here is meant to be thick, but it just comes across as self-aware and severely unfunny- and it isn’t the only time this film pulls a nod to the audience like this. In some cases, actually, notably the closing shot, Married to the Mob verges on postmodernism. To be absolutely fair, there are a couple of passable comic moments in the film, the best of which is easily her unsavoury interview in the fried chicken place. This is honestly much funnier than it sounds, which wouldn’t be hard because it sounds painfully unfunny.
The acting is also a touch patchy here. Pfeiffer was probably already a bit long in the tooth to be playing this kind of role, but she struggles hard giving Angela a type of steely resolve. Modine is an embarrasing plank (like he is in everything not called Full Metal Jacket), and comes across as a complete tool. Nevertheless, the acting honours are completely stolen by Stockwell’s superb oily womanising gangster and Ruehl’s brilliant psychotically jealous wife. Whenever these two are on screen the film sparks to life, but it’s unfortunate that they are on far less often than Angela struggling to find a job in New York. Actually, I think there was a fuck up somewhere here- because a film following the lunatic Connie around as she attempts to catch oily Tony shagging around on her could have been fucking stupendous, and would totally have justified the title. It could also have been a proper screwball comedy all full of capers and hijinks and whatnot as he attempts to extricate himself from the ludicrous situations his cock had landed him in.
Sadly, that isn’t what we have. What we do have is a stylish, well directed, mildly boring, totally unfunny, totally inoffensive woman coping with the real world film. This does not interest me, and nor does the film improve when she’s placed in the jaws of danger. Modine, for the record, is officially the worst undercover agent in the history of the FBI. There’s a bit of gunplay, but to be honest my mind was elsewhere and I’d already checked my nails several times to see if they had grown since I last checked two seconds before.
If there’s one word I’d use to describe this film, then that word is “bland”. There’s nothing offensive about it, but by the same score there also isn’t anything interesting or particularly amusing. It’ll pass the time as background noise, but that’s it, and I suppose if it came on TV on a Sunday afternoon, I wouldn’t jump up to switch it off. It just isn’t any good, and I don’t care about the millions of glowing reviews out there of it.
Overall, nope, it’s another one that I don’t recommend. While Married to the Mob isn’t intrinsically hateful like some of the films on this list, it also isn’t worth bothering with. I’m struggling to write anything interesting about it, because there isn’t really anything interesting to say about it, and that’s the crux of the problem. If you feel like watching a screwball comedy without the comedy (or the screwball stuff), then this is the film for you. I’ve given it one cartoon mobster out of four and that’s purely for Stockwell and Ruehl, the film really should have been about them.
I have to agree with Time Out and Ebert here, Married to the Mob is a shallow, gentle, inoffensive movie that simply isn’t worth bothering with.
Next up is another stinker: 1989’s Millenium. Which is a time travel film of sorts. At least it doesn’t have a message this time.
Until next time,
The full list in this series:
- 1978 – The Driver (3 out of 4)
- 1979 – Life of Brian (4 out of 4)
- 1980 –Xanadu (Orangutan of Doom)
- 1981 – An American Werewolf in London (4 out of 4)
- 1982 – Class of 1984 (3 out of 4)
- 1983 – Fire and Ice (1 out of 4)
- 1984 – Cal (1/2 out of 4)
- 1985 – Teen Wolf (3 out of 4)
- 1986 –Reform School Girls (2.5 out of 4)
- 1987 – Dirty Dancing (Orangutan of Doom)
- 1988 – Married to the Mob (1 out of 4)
- 1989 – Millennium
- 1990 – Darkman
- 1991 – Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man
- 1992 – Christopher Columbus: The Discovery
- 1993 – Hard Target
- 1994 – Natural Born Killers
- 1995 – Desperado
- 1996 – Freeway
- 1997 – Mimic
- 1998 – Blade
- 1999 – Teaching Mrs. Tingle
- 2000 – Bring it On
- 2001 – Heartbreakers
- 2002 – Simone
- 2003 – My Boss’s Daughter
- 2004 – Exorcist: The beginning
- 2005 – The Cave
- 2006 – Invincible
- 2007 – War
- 2008 – Death Race
- 2009 – Der Baader Meinhof Komplex
- 2010 – Piranha 3D
- 2011 – Conan the Barbarian