I’m participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge by watching and reviewing some of my favorite movies of all time that I haven’t watched in a long time. I haven’t seen many movies starting with Z much less any that I want to watch again, so instead I’m reviewing a movie with TWO “Zs” in it! This post contains SPOILERS!
Title: Mystic Pizza
Release Date: October 21, 1988
Director: Donald Petrie
Production Company: Night Life Inc. | The Samuel Goldwyn Company |
This movie is a coming-of-age, romantic comedy about three young women living in the village of Mystic, Connecticut: the sisters Kat (Annabeth Gish) and Daisy (Julia Roberts) and their friend Jojo (Lili Taylor). They all work as waitresses at the titular pizza restaurant, and the movie covers the period of a few months where they each have a challenging relationship with a man.
Kat is intelligent and hardworking and planning to start studying astronomy at Yale in the spring semester. Daisy considers her a goody two shoes. To make more money Kat is hired to work as a babysitter for Tim (William R. Moses), a young father who wants someone to look after his daughter while his wife is in on an extended business trip in England. Kat and Tim bond intellectually and physically leading to an extramarital affair that ends in heartbreak for Kat.
Daisy feels that her mother looks down on her for not being bright and ambitious like Kat, as well as being judged in general for being promiscuous. She meets a handsome preppy Charles (Adam Storke) at a bar. He proves to be less snobbish and more accepting than his friends and family. But he also has an ongoing quarrel with his father and puts Daisy in an embarrassing situation when he uses her to show up his family’s elitism.
The movie begins with Jojo getting cold feet at her wedding to the fisherman Bill (Vincent D’Onofrio). She’s torn by her love for Bill and her sense that she’s too young to commit to marriage, children, and the domestic life. She’s also frustrated that Bill, a devout Catholic, will not have sex before marriage. Their relationship has its ups and downs before they reconcile and marry for real at the end of the movie.
An ongoing subplot involves the Mystic Pizza restaurant where the owner Leona (Conchata Ferrell) treats Kat, Daisy, and Jojo like her own daughters. The restaurant is known for its excellent pizza that features Leona’s secret recipe in the sauce. A famous and stodgy tv critic visits the restaurant and although there are several mishaps serving him, when his review is televised he declares the pizza to be “superb” leading to an uptick in business.
When Did I First See This Movie?:
First and foremost, this movie is set in Connecticut, which when you’re a kid growing up in Connecticut on a steady diet of movies set in California and New York, is a big f’in deal! Mystic is home to two of the state’s biggest tourist attractions, Mystic Seaport and Mystic Aquarium, so every Connecticut schoolchild went to at least one of those places on a field trip. I also visited several times with my family. People from the 47 states with more territory than Connecticut will laugh, but as a kid, the journey from our home in the western end of the state to Mystic felt soooooooooooooooo long.
Anyhow, I watched this with my family on cable or VHS sometime in the year or so after it was released. I remember enjoying the movie greatly and forming a deep celebrity crush on Annabeth Gish even though all the other boys went for Julia Roberts. In the 1990s, on a visit to Mystic, I dined at the original Mystic Pizza restaurant. The pizza is – in fact – really good.
What Did I Remember?:
I specifically remember Julia Roberts dumping fish into the preppy’s sports car and Lili Taylor yelling at her boyfriend from the drawbridge. Otherwise, I just remembered general impressions and plot details.
What Did I Forget?:
I forgot a lot. Like I didn’t remember that the movie begins and ends with weddings. I didn’t even remember that Kat and Daisy are sisters.
What Makes This Movie Great?:
This movie does a great job on focusing on relationships – not just man-woman relationships, but also among family and friends. It also captures the class dynamic in Connecticut of working class, Catholic enclaves (Portuguese-Americans in the movie, but Italian-American where I grew up) competing with the wealthier elites. The men in this movie are all horrible in their own way, but also have good qualities, so it is believable that 2 of the 3 relationships are reconciled by the film’s end.
The movie also has some great set pieces, like when Jojo, Daisy, and Kat steal Bill’s truck and sing along with Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” (another great scene I was surprised I forgot about). The acting is really good in the movie and a lot of the cast went on to stardom. Roberts, of course, became one of the biggest Hollywood leading ladies within a few years of this movie. Meanwhile, Taylor became the indie movie queen in the 1990s. Gish’s career isn’t as illustrious but she did star in The X-Files for a few seasons. Even Matt Damon makes his film debut as Charles’ younger brother.
What Doesn’t Hold Up?:
Younger viewers may laugh at the 80s hairstyles and fashions, but they still look pretty good to me.
Is It a Classic?:
I’m gonna go out on a limb and say yes. It holds a special place in my heart at least.