At 25: “Married to the Mob”


August 19, 2013 by billysparrow


Married to the Mob

Released: August 19. 1988

Starring: Michelle Pfeiffer, Matthew Modine, Dean Stockwell, Mercedes Ruehl, Oliver Platt, Alec Baldwin

I snuck into the theater to see “Married to the Mob.”

I do not know why I did this, why I decided that “Married to the Mob” was the movie where I was going to try the old “buy-a-ticket-for-a-PG-movie-and-sneak-into-an-R-one” trick. I suppose I had thought of doing as much before, but I didn’t feel compelled to put that plan into action until I heard of this movie about a woman who was married to the mob and seemingly did not want to be. And I definitely, quite inexplicably, did have a sense of anticipation about the movie. I even remember getting a button of the movie at Woodbridge Center as part of some promotional event, I guess (and that button still might be around somewhere, with my Roger Rabbit pencils). Perhaps as a native Staten Islander, I was simply compelled to see something about the mafia.

As R-rated movies go, “Married to the Mob” wasn’t exactly something an 11-year-old would be gung ho about sneaking into. It didn’t seem like there would be a lot of fun, senseless violence (like “Action Jackson”), nor was there any indication that there would be copious amounts of nudity. And, in fact, neither of those things is in great supply. There is a naked Nancy Travis, which I suppose is something, though that’s really early in the movie and, since I had no recollection of it, I probably snuck in too late to catch it the first time around.

Then again, I might not have caught it because I was so paralyzed with fear that I was going to be caught by a movie usher (unlikely on a weekday afternoon), loudly reprimanded for my actions, and escorted out of the theater by the police, only after receiving a lifetime ban from the theater owner. I am not exaggerating for effect. These are the thoughts that were running through my head for about the first 15 minutes after I snuck in, particularly when the theater door opened and someone walked down the aisle. Luckily, it was a pretty sparsely attended showing, so I didn’t get too jumpy. But it was still a very tense time.

That goes a long way to explaining why very little about the movie seemed familiar upon rewatching it. It also might be because it’s not a particularly memorable movie. And I don’t mean that to imply it’s a bad movie. It’s not. But it’s an odd movie, one of those comedies that isn’t all that funny (director Jonathan Demme seems to prefer quirky over funny) but isn’t all that awful either.

Things get off to a good start with Rosemary Clooney singing “Mambo Italiano,” perhaps the only song with the excellent word “chadrool” in it. The song is one of the only things I remember about the movie, though that might be more because of the commercial/trailer than the actual movie, because, as already mentioned, I likely missed the beginning due to my stealth mission of sneaking in. And if that’s the case, I likely also missed Alec Baldwin’s contributions to the movie, which seems possible, because I had forgotten he was in this movie. I don’t know if he’s the world’s most convincing mobster as “Cucumber” Frank de Marco, but he’s entertaining enough. Michelle Pfeiffer is more convincing as Angela de Marco, the woman who no longer wants to be married to the mob, and it’s hard not to think of the Mob Wives/Real Housewives/etc. when watching her performance in the movie now. On that point, while it might have been tempting in 1988 to say that Pfeiffer goes a little over the top at times, such a statement seems silly now that we have been exposed to the “real” Mob Wives. Pfeiffer doesn’t even come near hitting the heights (or depths, depending on your world view) of Big Ang.

But perhaps the best mob wife in “Married to the Mob” (one of whom is Joan Cusack, also of “My Blue Heaven,” suggesting she is the go-to actress for mob-related comedies, even though she played vastly different characters in each) is Mercedes Ruehl, fresh off a thankless, surprisingly brief role as Josh’s mom in “Big.” Ruehl doesn’t get a ton of scenes in this either, but she hits just about every one out of the park. One of the other things I remembered from the movie (again, likely from the commercial/trailer) was her glorious Wringing of the Eggs in the supermarket, which gets my vote for the best scene in the movie.

You might think I’m insane (well, that probably happened a long, long time ago) when I say she deserved an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress, but consider this: someone in this movie actually was nominated for an Oscar: Dean Stockwell, playing Tony the Tiger, husband of Ruehl’s character, assassin of Baldwin’s character, and dogged pursuer of Angela. I can’t say that he does anything here that makes him stand out all that much, but he is solid and generally refreshingly understated in his scenes. Sadly, none of these scenes are on YouTube (in fact, hardly any scenes from the movie are on YouTube), so if you want to check out some of what got Stockwell an Academy Award nomination, go here or here (both of which are NSFW, I think; I don’t feel like watching them again).

The most perplexing part of the film is Matthew Modine. I assume the direction given to him in his role as FBI agent Mike Downey was “Just be weird.” And if that is the case, then job well done. It’s not a bad performance; it’s just a little too blatantly quirky for my liking. In the scenes with Pfeiffer where he’s playing it pretty straight, he’s really good, but then there are other times when he and/or Demme seem a little too eager to make Downey quirky. I’m not big on quirky.

One other perplexing part of “Married to the Mob”: the end credits, which feature scenes (with no audio) that didn’t make the final cut. It is, I suppose, a unique way to end a movie, but it’s also very confusing, and probably even more so in 1988, where “deleted scenes” were something the average moviegoer didn’t know about, let alone see. One good sight gag revealed in these scenes, though, is the phrase “Veni Veni Veni” carved above the bed at the seedy motel where Tony the Tiger takes out his goomah and Frank. Nice touch.

I think that about wraps up what I have to say about “Married to the Mob” (though I should point out that David Johansen and Chris Isaak’s cameos are fun), a movie that’s neither terrible nor all that great. If I had to do it over again, I’d have picked a better movie to serves as the First Movie I Snuck Into (it might be the only one, too, or at least the only one I remember). Or at least one that earned its R rating because of ample nudity. I would’ve remembered that.




One thought on “At 25: “Married to the Mob”

  1. Paul S says:

    My favourite Michelle Pfeiffer character (not to mention performance) is without a doubt Angela de Marco in “Married to the Mob”!
    The lengths Angela will go to to teach her son right from wrong, the value of working hard, making an honest living, and living an honest life, is gripping! After her husband’s death, Angela has the option of continuing to live a cushy lifestyle, a life that she’s become accustomed to, but instead, she’s willing to give it all up so that she and her son can have a life that they she can be proud of. In order to make that a reality, she picks up and leaves, and sets out to do it the hard way.

    What I love about Michelle’s role as Angela, is that Angela is not merely a pretty accessory for a kingpin. She’s gutsy, and she demands control over her life. She’s willing to get down and dirty with the best of them! She has to be tough, but not so tough that she loses all sense of humanity. Her naivety is also endearing.

    “Married to the Mob” shows that Michelle not only does her homework, but also how dedicated she is to mastering her craft. As an Italian-American, let me just say that her accent was unbelievably spot on! Had I not known it was Michelle and what she actually sounds like, I would have totally bought that she was from Long Island. I still hear her “I wanna a dah-voorce!” in my head!

    “Married to the Mob” proves that Michelle was born with the ‘funny gene,’ something she doesn’t believe she has.

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