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‘Mystic Pizza’ (R)

By Hal Hinson
Washington Post Staff Writer
October 22, 1988

"Mystic Pizza," the new film about the friendship among three young women working in a Mystic, Conn., pizza parlor, has an abundance of heart, but it's to the detriment of other vital organs.

The subject here is female bonding. All three women appear to be in their late teens, at a point in life where important decisions are being made. The brainy Kat (Annabeth Gish) is an astronomy student bound for Yale; her voluptuous sister Daisy (Julia Roberts) doesn't expect to go to college and, generally, relies on her body, rather than her brains, to open doors; the gregarious Jojo (Lili Taylor) is crazy about her fisherman boyfriend Billy (Vincent Phillip D'Onofrio), but not as crazy as he is about the idea of getting married.

The first feature directed by Donald Petrie, it shifts back and forth between the close relationship of the three women, all of whom are from poor Portuguese families, and scenes featuring their relationships with men. Each woman, of course, has a relationship with a man. Brainy Kat falls in love with Tim, a former Yalie whose daughter she is baby-sitting; voluptuous Daisy has hooked up with Charlie (Adam Storke), a k a Charles Gordon Winsor, a blue-blooded WASP recently kicked out of Yale Law School; and spunky Jojo has Billy, who cuts off sexual relations until she agrees to marry him.

The conflicts are, at best, formulaic. (Tim is married, but unhappy; Charlie is from a different class.) And the filmmakers provide nothing to rescue us from the clichés. There's duplicity, too, in having Daisy, who is presented to us as vaguely troubled because she's attractive and has had more than her fair share of contact with men, see Charlie as the solution to all her problems, then loudly denounce him for attempting to use her to hurt his father.

A number of hands have worked on the script -- among them, those of Amy Jones, whose original story this is, Perry and Randy Howze ("Maid to Order"), and Alfred Uhry, who won a Pulitzer for "Driving Miss Daisy" -- and one would guess from the evidence here that their intention was to show us how women think and talk when they're alone. This comes to us in the form of frank dialogue about their sex lives -- like Jojo's infatuation with Billy's wrists -- delivered with conspiratorial sniggers of embarrassment to make sure we're aware that they're aware of their naughtiness.

"Mystic Pizza" is an old-fashioned woman's picture updated (just slightly) for '80s women. The revelation here is that women think and talk bluntly and unsentimentally about men -- something that will surely come as news to everyone except those who have actually ever had conversations about such things with the opposite sex.

Watching the film, you get the general sense that the actors -- particularly Annabeth Gish and, though he is hardly featured, D'Onofrio (who was last seen as the troubled recruit in "Full Metal Jacket") -- are better than their material, but this is scant compensation. Perhaps the greatest disappointment comes, though, when the promised list of secret ingredients that make the Mystic pizza so special is skipped over. It was for this alone that I had kept my notebook open.

"Mystic Pizza" contains some mature talk and adult-ish situations.

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