Category Archives: Scenes From A Mall

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Bette Midler’s 15 greatest film performances, ranked worst to best

Golden Derby
Bette Midler’s 15 greatest film performances, ranked worst to best
By Robert Pius, Chris Beachum
December 1, 2018

Bette Midler at the Tony's

Mister D: Well, as long as they had the correct #1 I knew I would be a happy gay cis-gender – white privileged man (is that correct for me? I can’t keep up) My pronouns are: “Just call me any old thing” because frankly, I won’t get offended (not after all the verbally abusive men I have personally slept with. But ya’ll ain’t interested in that! I loved what they said about this Number One performance because it’s true. I would have ranked some higher, and some lower, but that’s just my opinion. I would have found some way to get “And Then She Found Me” and her wonderful cameo of Doris in “Get Shorty” in there. I won’t tell you which ones I’d pull out. Anyway, this was fun. I enjoyed it. Oh, and thank the Lord, Divine Madness made the list. You never see concert movies much on these, and truthfully, I’d probably put it higher. Read More

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Sunday, June 24, 2018

TOP TEN MOVIES ABOUT OR WITH A MALL

Falcon Movies
TOP TEN MOVIES ABOUT OR WITH A MALL
June 11, 2018

Bette Midler, Woody Allen

On today’s Slow Monday Top Ten , I’m going to type endlessly about movies that use a mall as a major part of the story. The Mall (in capitals) is an American tradition, which has been slowly, slowly declining since the early 90s. It had its hey-day in the 80s, which was the era of excess, where The Mall (in caps) fit in perfectly. You could find whatever you wanted in the mall, from Orange Julius to cheap jewelry that looked suspiciously second-hand. That mass-market accessibility is maybe the most appealing thing about a mall, and many mall themes can be seen in popular movies like Dawn of the Dead or Mallrats, both of which take the setting of the mall and imbue it with unique characteristics. In the case of Dawn, the mall is shelter from the apocalypse, but also the last bastion of a once great civilization, one obsessed with shopping and wandering aimlessly for no good reason. The word Mallrats is unique and clever, imbuing a human being with the trashy, superficial characteristics of The Mall (in caps), and that superficiality makes a funny comedy about young people. What about the rest of these? Are these good movies with a mall?

10. Paul Blart: Mall Cop (2009) – If this movie was maybe released in the 80s or 90s, it’d probably be more memorable. As it is, the movie feels dated, but maybe that’s what they were going for with all the stupid references and silly dialogue. Fortunately, this type of comedy fits Kevin James best, as he’s able to do some physical humor and a lot of situational humor.

9. Chopping Mall (1986) – I reviewed this movie for the 2017 31 Days of Halloween Movie Review-A-Thon and it’s pretty much crap (click here for that review). It’s a Roger Corman quickie, so it’s guaranteed to have a lot of outrageous stuff in it. Unfortunately, the movie feels late to the party, with some material already covered by other movies, like Dawn of the Dead. Still, it’s at least entertaining to watch teenagers run away from “robots” made from vacuum clearners.

8. Scenes From a Mall (1991) – Woody Allen’s sappy romance has one good scene I like. Allen and his wife, played by Bette Midler, visit a mall and the scene makes you think they’re visiting a swanky, high-class jewelry store. The clerk brings out an item on a pillow (of all things) and the couple looks adoringly at it. Midler seems really happy, but we learn that it’s simply just a picture of the family put into this cheesy silver frame. It’s pretty funny and plays on our expectations of a couple’s important visit to the mall. Other than scenes like that which have some actual comedy ingenuity, the movie feels choppy and badly paced, and the story goes nowhere. Roger Ebert gave it one star.

7. Bad Santa (2003) – Continuing the tradition of trashy mall movies, Bad Santa fits Billy Bob Thornton almost too well. His character is disgusting, rude and hilarious. He poses as a Santa to rob the mall, which doesn’t sound like a very good plan in my opinion. The trailer has all the good scenes and makes the movie seem a little better than it is. It’s not bad for a holiday change-of-pace, just really trashy. I’m not watching Billy Bob beat up a midget at any other time of the year but at Christmas.

6. Mannequin (1987) – This is a dumb movie but it has a great hook for a story. A guy falls in love with a mannequin that comes to life as a real live girl. It’s certainly unique, but it’s consumerist subtext is a product of its time, the fabulous 80s. The movie is mainly about finding the hidden female mannequin in a world of nondescript female mannequins, and I think there’s a lot of symbolism in there somewhere. The movie made 43 million on a budget of 8, and was wildly successful. The movie is supposed to be the modern retelling of the Pigmalion, an opera about a beautiful statue that comes to life. I feel an analysis might be in there somewhere.

5. Mallrats (1995) – Kevin Smith’s Mallrats or Clerks is genre defining. It puts the human trope right there in the title. What is a “mallrat”? What does that word even mean? The movie doesn’t try to answer those questions, instead relying on the “characters” to flesh out their trashy upbringing from shopping too much. They argue, fight, have sex, and beat up the Easter Bunny. It’s a comedy. I think Clerks is better, frankly.

4. Blues Brothers (1980) – Blues Brothers really has very little to do with malls or stores, but it sure trashes them like no tomorrow. The famous chase scene crashes through a mall and it’s one of the best parts of the movie. Elwood drives his crappy 1974 Dodge all over the road like my Grandma and tries to get away from the police, because the joke is that he’s got like 56 outstanding warrants. They smash into a toy store, run over all the mannequins and go hog wild, while the music sounds like its playing for the Marx Brothers. There’s a cameo from Steven Williams as a cop motivated to catch Elwood and Jake.

3. Police Story (1985) – This movie or Rush Hour is Jackie Chan’s best movie. Rush Hour is pretty much a buddy flick, but Police Story is all Jackie. Much like Blues Brothers, the best scene is set in a mall, but in Police Story, it’s a highly choreographed fight scene. It’s about ten minutes long and all the fluff that packs Blues Brothers is nowhere to be seen in this one, instead the scene starts with a high stakes chase where the Bad Guys ™ try to catch the Beautiful Woman ™, who witnessed their crime. Chan plays the hero, of course. No surprise, he beats them all up. The script injects little bits of exposition between each Jackie fight and that works well. Chan even kicks the slimy lawyer. Awesome.

2. Night of the Comet (1984) – This movie takes the mall hangout premise from Dawn of the Dead and puts an 80s twist on it. Two girls turn the melodrama up to 11 and the movie goes montage crazy, realizing what Dawn of the Dead did with its overindulgent craving for consumerism and shopping. So it’s the same Dawn of the Dead shopping scene just done a little differently. The girls put down their uzi and try on shoes. Hilarious. “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” plays over their shopping trip and they dance through Macy’s, then the dialogue drips with more irony as they discuss style. The scene pushes forward with a shootout.

Dawn of the Dead – This is the mother of all mall apocalypse consumerist metaphor movies. Every other movie that has a mall and has a metaphorical message is compared to Romero’s classic. I’ve always wondered why the blood and the gore is done in such a colorful way, from the bright red blood to the four color arena of the mall. What does that mean? Romero argued that the color of the blood complemented the comic book feel of the movie. The movie’s iconic setting plays a huge role in the legacy of the film and the film’s critique of consumerism is why it is still remembered today.

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Saturday, October 28, 2017

Big Business / Scenes from a Mall Bette Midler Blu-Ray Double Feature To Be Released December 19, 2017

Kino, the label is prepping a Double Feature release with Big Business / Scenes from a Mall starring Bette Midler, Woody Allen, Lily Tomlin, Fred Ward, Bill Irwin, and Edward Herrmann for Blu-ray on December 19. Supplements will include trailers for both films.

Comedy legends Bette Midler (Ruthless People) and Lily Tomlin (9 to 5) star in this critically acclaimed box office hit about two sets of identical twins who are mismatched at birth. Forty years later, their paths cross amid the hustle and bustle of Manhattan, and the result is unrestrained pandemonium. Wonderfully directed by Jim Abrahams (Airplane!). Rated PG

A hilarious adventure in marriage, infidelity and bargain shopping – Hollywood icons Bette Midler (Beaches) and Woody Allen (Take the Money and Run) co-star as a best-selling pop psychologist (Midler) and a high-powered sports attorney (Allen). They’re the perfect 90s power couple and during a shopping spree in an upscale mall, this Beverly Hills duo’s seemingly happy marriage takes an outlandish turn for the worse. Directed by Paul Mazursky (Down and Out in Beverly Hills). (Rated R)

Special Features:
-Trailers for Big Business and Scenes From a Mall

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Friday, August 28, 2015

BetteBack Review March 7, 1991: Midler Is The Lone Bright Spot In ‘Scenes’

Kokomo Tribune
March 7, 1991

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Coming on the heels of “Enemies: A Love Story,” this small-scale comedy set solely in a California mall must have sounded like a pleasant diversion for writerdirector Paul Mazursky. But then star Woody Allen — doing his first acting away from his own films —
requested that they shoot in New York (Woody hates L.A.), and so a mall had to be built on a New York soundstage. Maybe Mazursky should have taken this as an omen.

The picture is more innocuous than anything else. In the plus column, there’s the concept — the mall as an emblem for consumer society’s highest value: being able to rush around and buy beautiful things. People go there to look and purchase. It’s that simple. So it’s amusing to see Mazursky play against this shiny bny-and-sell ambience with the escalating woes of his two main characters.

Bette Midler and Allen play a woe-begotten “happily” married couple on the brink of their 16th wedding anniversary who take a jaunt together to a glitzy Rodeo Drive mall. Right there, in between the Guccis and the Smuccis, their marriage starts to come undone.

Mazursky knows Beverly Hills inside out. One of his best recent movies, “Down and Out in Beverly Hills,” mined a lode of rich humor in that milieu. It’s a world that most filmmakers condescend to — making the characters shrill, pampered and vulgar. Mazursky satirizes these people with something approaching love.

The problem is that his material is only worthy of a sketch, not a feature. The mall setting is a canny one: people often do reveal things in public places, where they feel both anonymous and protected.

In Mazursky’s version, it’s best-selling author-shrink Midler and sports lawyer Allen who dish up past indiscretions, nurse their shock, bicker, and then move to another mall where the fighting continues.

But Mazursky hasn’t fleshed out the characters. We know so little about these people that you might think that’s the point: that they’re shallow. In a role that plays like an anemic version of one of the schlemiels he normally writes for himself, Allen is at half mast.

Midler, though, is very good. It’s a non-singing role, one that doesn’t indulge her bawdy, campy quality. Her acting here is true. Most of the movie fades quickly, but you may retain an affection for Midler.

GRADE: 2stars

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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

BetteBack March 3, 1991: Woody Allen And Bette Midler Is The Most Inspired Casting In Movie History

Galveston Daily News
March 3, 1991

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Pairing Woody Allen and Bette Midler together as a well-to-do married couple in Los Angeles is one of the most inspired bits of casting in movie history. I hear echoes of Gable and Lombard, Bogart and Bacall, Hepburn and Tracy and now Woody and the Divine Miss M.

In all honesty, “Scenes From a Mall” could have had Allen and Midler sitting in a white room talking about chalk for an hour and a half and it still would have been funny. As it turns out, we got the bonus plan.

It’s the day before Christmas, but for Nick and Deborah Fifer it’s more special. Today is their 16th anniversary. Before celebrating at
their dinner party, they hop into their Saab convertible and cruise down to the Beverly Center to do some last minute shopping.

Amidst the throngs of shoppers, Christmas singers, rap groups and a very annoying mime (Bill Irwin), Nick and Deborah are the apparent model for modern- day marriages. Sixteen years and two children later they are still in love enough to go shopping together,that is, until Nick admits some recent infidelities. Then things get interesting. As if feeding off the frantic buying going on about them, Deborah demands a divorce.

Then, in the spirit of the season, they make up. However, it isn’t long until they’re back at one another’s throats.

“Scenes From a Mall” is actually one prolonged series of fights and apologies. One of the most riotous make up scenes takes place in the mall’s cineplex where they watch “Salaam Bombay” (in its third year) with no one else in the audience. Well, almost no one.

Director Paul Mazursky must be commended for ever getting Allen to appear in this film. Rarely does Woody appear in a film he didn’t direct himself. Mazursky and co-writer Roger L. Simon also had enough sense not to introduce lots of extra characters. Either Allen
or Midler are on screen the entire film, which derives most of its humor from the interplay between the two leads.

Here we have two people who are arguably the funniest man and first time. A priceless testament to their chemistry is a hilarious scene
before they go shopping in which Allen furiously tries to undress Midler while she talks on the phone. Allen also pulls off the best
line of the film, commenting on the virtues of New York versus Los Angeles. Even Midler, at her buxom best, hasn’t had such a juicy
role since Mazursky’s “Down and Out in Beverly Hills.”

The humor isn’t as outlandish as “L.A. Story,” nor does it even attempt such a leap. What the film delivers is a belated valentine to
fans of Allen and Midler who would like nothing more than to see them on screen doing what they do best — providing lots of laughs.

DDDVa (“Scenes from a Mall” is rated PG-13 for adult language.)

•»•
Oscar Update: For the record, my Academy Award predictions were on target this year — mostly. In the six major categories I nailed
21 of 30 on my first round picks. Counting second team selections I had 25 of 30. Okay, so I did say “Ghost” and “Pretty Woman” wouldn’t get any major nominations, but with an 83 percent success rate I figure I can escape with some dignity. Stay tuned for the Oscars on March 25, with more predictions before then.

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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Director Paul Mazursky Tells NPR’s Terry Gross Why He Cast Bette And Woody In “Scenes”

NPR
Fresh Air‘ Remembers Screenwriter Paul Mazursky
July 07, 2014 1:18 PM ET

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Paul Mazursky had planned on becoming an actor. Perhaps the most autobiographical movie he wrote and directed was 1976 film “Next Stop, Greenwich Village” about a young actor and his friends. I first interviewed Mazursky in 1991 after his film “Scenes From A Mall” came out. Woody Allen and Bette Midler play a couple about to celebrate their 16th wedding anniversary with a big dinner party in their Beverly Hills home. They’re spending the day in the mall shopping for the party. In this scene, Woody Allen confesses he’s been involved with another woman.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, “SCENES FROM A MALL“)

WOODY ALLEN: (As Nick Fifer) I had an affair.

BETTE MIDLER: (As Deborah Fifer) I see. When?

ALLEN: (As Nick Fifer) Recently. It’s over now. You know – I’m sorry.

MIDLER: (As Deborah Fifer) When did you meet her? Where did you find the time?

ALLEN: (As Nick Fifer) I did. I found time. You know, after work mostly, when I was supposed to going to the health club. I had two others, but they were one nighters and this was years ago and that’s it.

MIDLER: (As Deborah Fifer) That’s it, two?

ALLEN: (As Nick Fifer) That’s it, two. They were one-nighters both – three actually, if you count the hooker in Dallas. But that – that was business. That was totally business. They sent her to my room, I couldn’t refuse. It was a gift. I love you. I really, really love you.

MIDLER: (As Deborah Fifer) Oh, honey (punches husband). You are the most callous, selfish, shortsighted son of a bitch who has ever lived. I hope you rot in hell.

GROSS: In 1991, I asked Paul Mazursky why he thought of casting Woody Allen, who always played introspective cerebral roles opposite the physical and brassy Bette Midler.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

PAUL MAZURSKY: It’s a fair question and many people ask me. But I have have a variety of answers. One is that most marriages I’ve known, and I’ve been married a long time and I’ve known a lot of married people – you wonder how they got together. Often they seem to be opposites, you know? The guy’s a baseball fan and watches football and this and that – the woman has no interest in it. I’ve rarely met couples who – they both love to do everything together, you know.

GROSS: Right.

MAZURSKY: That kind of thing. So that I felt perfectly normal. Secondly, it seemed at the time, and I still think it’s a good idea, to try to match these two, you know, famous people who you would not think would be together just to see what would happen.

GROSS: This is Woody Allen’s first role in another director’s film since “The Front.” Was he initially enthusiastic about this?

MAZURSKY: Yes.

GROSS: Did you have to sell him on it?

MAZURSKY: No. I called Sam Cohn, who’s my agent and his agent, and I said I have a script. He said well, I know the script. I said you think Woody might be interested? He says he might, he’s looking for a job. He wants to work in another person’s movie to make money. Sent him the script on Saturday. On Monday, he called and said he wants to do it. That’s how easy it was.

GROSS: So what did you tell Woody Allen about how you wanted him to act compared to the kind of character he usually plays in his own movies?

MAZURSKY: Well, I didn’t tell him I wanted him to act. I told him I wanted a ponytail and at first he was resistant then…

GROSS: I could see why (laughing).

MAZURSKY: Well, why do you say that? Tell me.

GROSS: There’s something so trendy about that kind of ponytail right now.

MAZURSKY: Right. I wanted him to be trendy – I wanted him to be someone other than the Woody Allen you see in Woody Allen movies.

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BetteBack February 28, 1991: Disney Grafted Bette And Woody’s Heads On Different Bodies In Ads

Syracuse Post Standard
February 28, 1991

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In Disney advertisements for “Scenes From a Mall,” Bette Midler looks 20 pounds lighter, and Woody Allen has acquired a torso that Clint Eastwood would kill for.

New York magazine says the heads of the two stars were grafted on to different bodies. “It’s hard to imagine that the people at Disney thought they could get away with it,” one source said.

“They made Bette look like she’s anorexic. And Woody’s got shoulders.”

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    Monday, August 24, 2015

    BetteBack Review February 27, 1991: Even Midler, who is usually pure energy, is a real snooze in this film

    Walla Walla Union Bulletin
    February 27, 1991

    scenes-from-a-mall

    Woody Allen is a talented person. He is a fantastic writer, a wonderful director and he can even act.

    But he isn’t a great actor. He really only plays one character well — Woody Allen.

    In Scenes From a Mall, Allen attempts to branch out. He plays Nick Fifer, a sushi-eating, Saab-driving, espresso-drinking Southern California lawyer who hates mimes.

    Woody Allen, however, isn’t a California guy. He’s a New York person and it shows. ‘The only believable part of his character was the mimehating.

    It also provided the only laughs. (I found it hysterical, however, only because I consider street mimes pests. Mimes follow you, annoy you and — despite all reasonable requests — persist in being obnoxious. It is easier to get gum off your shoes than a street mime off your back.)

    The rest of the film, which centers on the marital problems of Nick and his wife, Deborah (Bette Midler), is dull.

    Even Midler, who is usually pure energy, is a real snooze in this film.

    The talents of Allen and Midler are wasted. It is very disappointing. It’s even more disappointing because the film, directed by Paul Mazursky, had a promising concept.

    The idea of a couple trying to work out their marital problems at a chic shopping mall sounded funny.

    Well, I guess it isn’t. It might have worked as a five-minute Saturday Night Live routine, but it doesn’t work as a full-length feature film.

    It seemed to go on and on and on.

    Nick and Deborah walk around the mall carrying a bright yellow su rfboard, tossing sushi and screaming.

    ‘They do the same routine several times, I suppose, so that if you didn’t laugh the first time you will have another chance. It’s not worth the effort.

    Scenes From a Mall, despite a few laughs at the expense of a mime, isn’t worth watching.

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    Friday, August 21, 2015

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

    Syracuse Herald
    February 22, 1991

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    “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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    Thursday, August 20, 2015

    BetteBack Review February 22, 1991: Roger Ebert – Even Allen and Midler can’t save ‘Scenes From a Mall’

    Cedar Rapids Gazette
    February 22, 1991

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    There is a theory about Film directing that teaches that every shot is wasted that does not further the story. When details are added to make things “interesting” or “colorful,” they only distract from the forward progress and bore us.

    For example, I tell you, “A guy is on a lonely road in cold weather trying to get his car started.” What do you want to know? What he does to get his car started, right?

    Now what if I say, “A balding, middle-aged appliance salesman is on Alaska Route 47 trying to get his Ford Victoria started when it’s 47 below zero.” More interesting or less? l^ess, I’d say, because the additional detail was not crucial for the thrust of my story.

    In a mediocre film with nothing to say, the details might provide momentary flashes of distraction.

    But the pure story line would be lost: the guy against the elements and a stubborn machine.

    When a movie seems overflowing with interesting, colorful details, that is often a sign of desperation — a way of saying, if the picture’s no good, get a gaudier frame.

    These remarks are inspired by Paul Mazursky’s “Scenes From a Mall,” a movie that stars Woody Allen and Bette Midler and is very bad indeed.

    Ever since seeing the film I’ve been trying to Figure out what went wrong. This is a movie I’ve been looking forward to since it was First announced. How could Mazursky (“An Unmarried Woman,” “Down and Out in Beverly Hills” and “Enemies: A Love Story”) possibly make a bad movie starring Woody Allen and Bette Midler?

    Yet the movie doesn’t work, except for a short time at the beginning, when we meet the characters. They’re affluent professionals who have packed the kids off to camp and are now embarking on a shopping trip to the local mall. There are laughs in these opening scenes, but more important, interest is generated:

    We learn enough about these people to become curious.

    We wait patiently to see where the day will lead them.

    Where it leads them, alas, is into a fog of arbitrary storytelling and desperate gimmicks, in a movie that seems to have been written without having been thought about very much. The screenplay — by Roger L. Simon, with Mazursky — creates big gestures for its characters because it doesn’t know them well enough to give them small gestures.

    What happens is, midway during a day that seems destined to be happy, the husband confesses he’s been having an affair. This revelation inspires a series of arbitrary responses in Midler — calm, outrage, grief, rage, analysis, acceptance, a decision for divorce, a willingness to compromise — after which she tells him she’s been having an affair, too.

    O.K. Few moments during this series of mutual revelations contain any degree of psychological truth. What’s worse is the conspiracy by Mazursky and his collaborators to surround their unconvincing story with items intended to be interesting and colorful.

    And then there’s the matter of the mime, played by Bill Irwin in a performance that must go immediately into the hall of shame for supporting actors.

    Everywhere Allen and Midler go. they’re shadowed by this obnoxious mime who has been hired by the mall to entertain the customers but has a face and manner that inspires immediate dislike.

    Irwin’s performance distracts from and diminishes everything else on the screen. The mime is so repellant that he spoils even a scene that should have raised a cheer in the audience: when Allen socks him in the jaw.

    Allen and Midler struggle heroically with their characters, but there is nothing in this story for us to believe. Every moment feels arbitrary. Nothing flows from genuine human feelings.

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