BetteBack Review February 21, 1991: Even Bette And Woody Can’t Save Gloomy ‘Scenes’

Syracuse Herald Journal
February 21, 1991


Writer-director Paul Mazursky must have thought he was making a new version of “An Unmarried Woman.” his distinguished film about a divorced woman searching for self-esteem.

But Mazursky’s latest film, “Scenes from a Mall,” stars Bette Midler and Woody Allen So one expects – laughs. And plenty of laughs are demanded when Bette’s and Woody’s names appear together on Ihe marquee.

“Scenes” examines Ihe 16-year marriage of Nick and Deborah Fifer, a seemingly devoled 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 clients on marital problems.

Essentially, Mazursky’s script digs into both sides of the marriage’s infidelities and Ihe couple’s individual reactions lo Ihe revelalion of the affairs.

Civilized behavior, especially Deborah’s analytical Iheones, 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, lhat 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.

Occasionally, a truly funny moment snaps the and stretches. As Deborah reveals her affair, Nick calmly nibbles sushi.

On paper, Midler and Allen appeared to be a dynamic pair. On screen, they are out of sync. Allen’simprovisational style fails 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 Irwin, the gifted minic roams the mall, reacting to the coupie’s various moods. The device never quite works, especially when Mazursky insults Allen by having:Irwin 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 construclion wasn’t completed to meet the film’s schedule, Carousel; escaped the taint of this dud of-a movie.

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