Last month I was talking about the movie which was Julia Robert’s big triumph. This month I want to talk about one which she made at the very, very beginning of her career. In fact, a lot of the young actors which starred in “Mystic Pizza” went on to further success. The casting director really knew how to do his job.
On paper the plot reads more like a romcom or a teenage flick. There are three young woman on the verge of adulthood as protagonist, three love interests for them and a Pizzeria as setting. But in reality it is a coming of age story. And I don’t talk about the kind of story in which high school kids have to decide if they want to go to college or not, follow their parents wishes or not, and whatever else the standard teenage comedy comes up with. This is a thoughtful movie about three young woman who have to make decisions which will have influence on the rest of their lives.
And to be honest: I feel somewhat inadequate going into this review. Because the great Roger Ebert did one for this movie, which is way better than anything I can come up with. He in fact predicted that the movie might someday become known for the movie stars it showcased back before they became stars: “All of the young actors in this movie have genuine gifts. Roberts is a major beauty with a fierce energy. Gish projects intelligence and stubbornness like a young Katharine Hepburn. And Taylor, who is given what’s intended as a more comic role, finds human comedy in her ongoing problems with the earnest and chaste Bill.”
Well, so much about the performance. I have nothing to add to that. But I’ll try making up for my shortcomings by examine the characters a little bit closer.
There are three typical roles for woman which come with a lot of negative connotations: The housewife, the “other one” and the slut. It’s not often that we see a serious take on the perspective of woman who are in this role and I fail to think about another movie which picked this angle. Usually the theme is tackled more from the perspective of someone reflection on this position and the story usually ends with either starting a new life, realizing that one is happy after all or in tragedy. It is even possible to predict the outcome based on the era and the genre of the movie (for example the housewife used to appreciate her life in the end, nowadays she tends to start anew). But this movie is about the decision which leads to woman finding themselves in either of those position at one point.
Jojo is about to marry a fisher, tying herself down to a life in the small town Mystic. She loves Bill. Her goal in life is to take over one day the Pizzeria she and her best friends are working in. So far so good. But she is also terrified that she’ll end up one day like all the other “old wives” in town, overweight and stuck in a boring existence. Twisting the usual gender roles, Bill is the one who wants a commitment before sex and finally tells Jojo that he questions if she is really interested in him or just his body, unknowingly repeating a worry she herself voiced earlier.
Kat is the virtuous one. Straight A student she works four jobs in order to get the money she’ll need to visit Yale in the fall, for which she has a half stipend. She wants to become a famous Astronomer. When she takes a babysitting job, though, she falls in love with her employer, an architect and Yale absolvent, whose wife is in Europe. Giving the role of “the other one” to a young woman who is usually always doing the right thing is an interesting move, which allows the audience to feel sympathy for her. For once, she is loosing her head and proves herself to be less able to deal with some of the realities of life than her sister.
Daisy is the village beauty, but despite the fact that she could get every boy she wants, she feels inferior compared to her best friend and her sister, who have clear goals in live, while she is mostly drifting. For her the only reason to marry is an opportunity to leave the poverty she grew up in behind. She is also in constant conflict with her mother, who believes in strict Christian ethics, always gives her the feeling not to life up to her standards and certainly doesn’t approve of her starting a relationship with a rich boy. Not Catholic, not Portuguese but above all someone who will most likely break her daughters heart.
All three of them learn some hard lessons during this movie, and redefine what they want from live. Or, as Roger Ebert said: “The movie isn’t really about three girls in love; it’s about three girls discovering what their standards for love are going to be.” I can only add that I really like the standards which are eventually established.
Daisy: “I even thought I was desperate, but I am not half as desperate as you are.”
Kat: *destroys the check her lover gave her*
Jojo: “Bill, this is important. I don’t want you to get the wrong idea but I have to maintain my own identity.”
This is for people who like a little bit substance in her comedies, and a little bit happiness in their dramas. And for everyone who likes to see famous actors in their early roles…there is even Matt Damon in a tiny one sentences appearance.