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‘The Butcher’s Wife’ (PG-13)

By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
October 25, 1991

"The Butcher's Wife" is a fantasy spin on "A Midsummer Night's Dream," by obvious way of "Moonstruck." But it's a pleasant enough experience all the same.

An unfathomable spell has fallen on Greenwich Village. New romance is in the air for everyone. The lonely suddenly find love. The already attached ditch their partners for new lovers. The local shrink never had so much business. It isn't lunar light causing the havoc. It's new resident Demi Moore, a clairvoyant who just tells it like it is.

Moore, the butcher's new wife, only met her husband three days before they married. When the movie begins, she's living with her grandmother (and fellow psychic) in Ocracoke, N.C. The signs for her own new love are everywhere: a wedding band in a mullet's belly, a twin-tailed comet, a dream about her lover coming for her across the sea. For a clairvoyant this is front-page news. So when portly George Dzundza pulls ashore, the wedding's as good as sealed. Moore finds herself chopping steaks in New York.

This movie isn't called "Beauty and the Beast," so you know the marriage can't last. When Moore's visionary qualities become apparent, Dzundza doesn't like what he sees. She predicts the meat delivery truck will be late. She knows exactly what customers want. The meat is wrapped before they open their mouths.

She also dispenses free psychic readings. She tells meek choir teacher Mary Steenburgen to buy that dazzling dress and sing in public. She tells soap actress Margaret Colin, then clothier Frances McDormand, that love is on its way.

Reports about Moore's abilities overwhelm local psychiatrist Jeff Daniels, who just happens to be Colin's boyfriend. The uptight practitioner isn't happy about it. Moore is transforming -- and complicating -- the lives of his clients. People aren't supposed to be cured this easily. Shrink and mystic battle each other for control of the neighborhood's collective psyche.

The romantic writing is on the wall, at least for us. It takes a while for Moore (longer for Daniels) to catch up. Con-veeee-niently, Dzundza's heart starts to melt when he sees Steenburgen crooning Bessie Smith songs. The newfound chanteuse kinda likes the butcher too. Now it's purely up to Daniels to give his id the green light.

With her mane of blond tresses and those shimmery eyes, Moore is suitably otherworldly. Daniels is great at showing increasing breakdown. He batters a pair of drumsticks on furniture to funnel his aggression. His silent glare implies volcanic inner suppression. It's soon to burst. At one point, patient Steenburgen is wondering whether or not to pursue an extramarital affair with the butcher. Daniels, no longer a disinterested party, jettisons all professionalism. He lights a cigarette, puts his hands on her shoulders, stares her straight in the eye and tells her to go for it. "If you fail," he says, butt dangling from his lip, "you're going to end up a lonely, old spinster."

In a movie like this, that's something nobody need worry about.

Copyright The Washington Post

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