BetteBack February 21, 1991: Only Duds At This “Mall”

Syracuse Herald Journal
Even dynamic duo fails to save gloomy ‘Scenes’
By Joan E. Vadeboncoeu
February 21, 1991

Wr i t e r -di r e c tor Paul M a z u r s ky must have t h o u g ht he was m a k i ng a new version of “An Unma r r i ed W o m a n .” h is d i s t i n g u i s h ed f i lm about a divorced woman searching for self-esteem.

B ut M a z u r s k y ‘s l a t e st f i l m , “Scenes from a Mall.” stars Bette M i d l e r and Woody Allen. So one e x p e c ts l a u g h s. A n d p l e n ty of l a u g hs a re d e m a n d ed when Bette’s and Woody’s names appear together on the marquee.

“Scenes” examines the 16-year marriage of Nick and Deborah Fifer, a seemingly devoted couple despite demanding dual careers and equally demanding children. They use his and hers phones. His phone is used to negotiate contracts for pro athletes. Her phone is for counseling chents on marital problems.

Ess ent i a l ly, Ma zur sky’s s c r ipt digs into both sides of the marriage’s infidelities and the couple’s individual reactions to the revelation of the affairs.

C i v i l i z ed b e h a v i o r, especially Deborah’s analytical theories, disappears. She beans him with a box of sushi. Nick tells her the new dress looks like something his Aunt Minna would wear.

The breakup and the pre-ordained reconciliation, that is obvious to moviegoers, proceeds at a pedestrian rate or at about the same speed as the gridlock in the mall’s parking garage. Most annoying are the talky conversations that spill out anger while the audience waits for a laugh that is too long in coming.

O c c a s i o n a l l y , -a t r u ly f u n ny moment snaps the arid stretches. As Deborah reveals her affair, Nick calmly nibbles sushi.

On p a p e r, M i d l er and A l l en appeared to be a dynamic pair. On screen, they are out of sync. Allen’s imp r o v i s a t i o n al style f a i ls to jibe with Midler‘s reliance on a written script.

As if he sensed the duo was a dud, Mazursky literally sent in the clown. Bill Irwm, the gifted mime, roams the mall, reacting to the couple’s various moods. The device never quite works, especially when Mazursky insults Allen by having Irwm copy his gestures. Still the mime manages to inject a few amusing expressions

There is only one winner in this venture. Syracuse’s Carousel Center was in the running as the mall filmed for this picture. Since construction wasn’t completed to meet t he f i l m ‘s s c h e d u l e. C a r o u s el escaped the taint of this dud of a movie.

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