BetteBack Review February 22, 1991: ‘Scenes from a Mall’ imitates real life

Syracuse Herald
February 22, 1991


“There is something really perverse about sitting in a mall, watching a movie about a mall,” I said to my friend as we waited for the new movie “Scenes from a Mall” to begin.

Especially when the mall in the movie looks eerily like the bright, glass-plated Carousel Center.

But the movie, starring Bette Midler and Woody Allen, makes it all seem natural. Almost the entire thing takes place inside a mall. (They even see a movie in the mall.)

“REAL LIFE USED to take place in the streets and town squares, but today people spend a lot of their time shopping in malls,” said director Paul Mazursky in a press release. “Whatever can happen in your life can happen in a mall.”

And in this movie, it does. The couple goes through a series of confessions, ups and downs, business deals, one movie, two outfits and three boxes of sushi.

The couple is surrounded by symbols of modern life: each totes a beeper, a television in the bookstore promotes the wife’s pop-psychology book, the mall parking lot. is crammed with shiny BMWs and Mercedes THE MALL BUSTLES with activity. Strolling singers dressed
like characters from a Dickens novel sing in harmony. A man balances champagne glasses on his chin in front of a crowd in the atrium. A mime wanders around annoying shoppers.

Everything is bright and zippy.

Sunlight pours in from the huge windows. Neon signs glow overhead like deranged Christmas lights. Glass elevators whisk shoppers up and down this modern-day downtown.

IT IS NO COINCIDENCE that the mall in the movie looks like the Carousel Center. About a year ago, the movie producers contacted Syracuse and the Pyramid company, the mall’s developer, about the possibility of using the new Carousel Center as a backdrop to the movie. But the new mall’s schedule did not coincide with that of the movie production crew, says Pyramid partner Bruce Kenan.

So they chose a mall in Stamford, Conn. The crew looked at more than 100 malls throughout the country and Canada before deciding on the Samford Town Center.

For two weeks they filmed at the center, which boasts glass elevators and mirrored escalators cutting across the six-story atrium.

But they couldn’t film the entire movie in a mall open for business, so the production crew, about 150 people, spent more than three months building an enormous twostory replica.

The resulting set reflects the fast-paced, convenient consumerism running rampant all over the country.

AND FORCES THE realization that shopping malls, for better or for worse, are inextricably a part of our lives. Perhaps in a world of uncertainty, we have created malls as a preserved slice of life, an insulated glass egg in which we can keep things constant, safe, dependable – the same in Stamford, Conn., as in Syracuse, NY.

As my friend and I left the theater, I heard a woman say, “We have to go shopping now that it’s over. We have 25 minutes left.”

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