I’ve had a really difficult week at work and I really wanted to relax by watching an old favourite film. Unfortunately, most of the 1988 films that I know and love have already been used as topics of my weekly Throwback Thirty review. So, when I put my hand into my TBT jar or film titles it was highly unlikely that I was going to get one I really wanted. I have to admit that, in my down state, I took several attempts to pick a film that I was in the mood for. I know I should want to watch Cinema Paradiso because it’s so celebrated but I really don’t think I could have handled it. Eventually I settled on this cult film that is not only one of Julia Roberts’ first roles but also Matt Damon’s first appearance in a film. It’s weird to think of a time before Julia Roberts was a massive star. It was 1990’s Pretty Woman that really pushed her into the limelight and showed that she was someone to pay attention to. Two years before that she was given second billing behind Annabeth Gish in this tale of three young women working at a small pizza restaurant. It was believed that Gish would go on to be the biggest name from this film. Bet whoever made that assumption feels stupid now.
Mystic Pizza is a film that charts the lives of three young women who all work as waitresses at the Mystic Pizza restaurant in Mystic, Connecticut. Each of the women has to deal with their own romantic problems as they make their way in a sleepy resort town whilst having dreams beyond their home. Sisters Kat (Annabeth Gish) and Daisy (Julia Roberts) are polar opposites but both dream of escaping Mystic for something bigger. Kat is the quiet and studious sister who is working as many jobs as possible before heading to Yale to study astronomy. Daisy dreams of getting as far away as possible and, hopefully, find an eligible young man along the way. They are joined by the friend Jojo (Lili Taylor) who got cold feet before marrying her boyfriend. She then has to decide if she wants her relationship to work or to cut and run.
This film isn’t exactly the kind of film that I really go out of my way to watch. It’s basically just a film that is entirely based around the romantic lives of three women. I know they all have other things going on but men are their primary focus. So, I wasn’t really expecting to enjoy it. Turns out, there’s plenty of charm and sweetness hiding beneath the schmaltzy and incredibly cheesy narrative. Julia Roberts is obviously the stand out star as Daisy. She gives an incredible performance playing the daughter of a Portuguese mother who is always disappointed in her. Daisy is fiery and loud but Roberts never loses sight of her vulnerability. It makes me wish she had more to do.
But, unfortunately, the film has to keep jumping between all of the women. As Daisy’s sister Kat suffers slightly but her story is still engaging enough. We see Kat experience her first heartbreak as she fantasises about her married boss. Being hired to babysit his young daughter, Kat starts to bond with Tim (William R. Moses). She quickly gets swept away in the romance of it all and gets way out of her depth. I was a little more frustrated by Kat’s story because it seems so unrealistic and idealised. The babysitter and the husband? It’s so trite.
However, it’s the final plot that really bugged me. Jojo is struggling to come to decide whether she really loves her boyfriend or if she’s being pressured into marrying him. Everything about Jojo’s journey is horrible. She’s basically just all about her relationship. There’s literally nothing else there. And it’s not as if her boyfriend is that nice. At one point he calls her a slut by painting on the side of his fucking boat and she still has to think about whether she wants to be with him or not. It’s insane.
Still, I guess in the grand scheme of things Mystic Pizza is quite a harmless film. It’s not breaking down barriers but it also isn’t the worst thing ever. And, in terms of 1980s romantic-comedies, it’s probably really progressive. I mean Daisy is a powerhouse of a woman and that scene of sisterly bonding at the end? Amazing. I’d say two-thirds of this film is incredibly watchable if not truly breathtaking. That final third? It’s passable when you consider how great it is watching a young Julia Roberts let loose on-screen.