BetteBack February 21, 1991: Bette Is Marvelous But ‘Scenes’ Goes Nowhere

Seguin Gazette Enterprise
February 21, 1991


Paul Mazursky is a master of intimacy.

He has a keen eye for the everyday glitches in human relationships, and a sharp wit for storytelling.

As a writer, “The Blackboard Jungle” (1955) was tough and realistic.

His send-up of the ’60s, “I Love You, Alice B. Toklas,” captured hash brownies and a freaky Peter Sellers.

As a director, his debut film “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice” is now considered a classic look atmarriage and sex, and “Harry and Tonto” was a poignant portrait of aging.

His most recent works, “Down and Out in Beverly Hills” and “Enemies, A Love Story,” were rich tapestries of specific lifestyles.

But his latest movie, “Scenes From a Mall,” is like a glass of cheap, domestic champagne. Made from chemicals and not grapes, it leaves a bitter aftertaste, and you wonder why you bothered in the first place.

The movie starts with promise.

Afterall, Mazursky is directing and Bette Midler and Woody Allen star.

But nothing really happens in the short, 87-minute’movie, except that in the space of half a day, a marriage takes a tumble or two.

Deborah and Nick Fifer are celebrating their 16th wedding anniversary by shipping their two children off to a ski weekend and throwing a shushi dinner party for their friends.

Deborah (Midler) is a best-selling author and highly successful psychologist; Nick (Allen) is a sportslawyer who rakes in millions by parlaying sneaker endorsement They live an antiseptic life in the Hollywood Hills, slaves to their beepers and jobs.

All is lovey-dovey until Nick confesses an affair. She explodes, the party is off, Ihe marriage is off.

Then they make up. The party is on, the marriage is on.

She confesses an affair. He hyperventilates, the party is off, the marriage is off.

With each parting of the way, the shushi is dumped and fresh sushi has to be purchased. If one adds the anniversary presents they pick up for each other, the caviar and champagne, new outfits and the margarita stop, the trip to the mall was a pricey adventure.

There are mild laughs throughout, and Midler is marvelous as the angry wife from hell. She and Allen bounce along well together, and their performance together is entertaining.

But his whiney wimp does lire very quickly.

There’s a very dark feel to this movie. These are not likable or even interesting people. If there is a tragedy, it is perhaps that their worst problem is boredom.

The Touchstone Pictures release was produced and directed by Mazursky, with Pato Guzman and Patrick McCormick as coproducers.

Mazursky co-wrote with Roger L. Simon.

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