The Eighties Club
The Politics and Pop Culture of the 1980s
Movie Reviews - M
Made In USA
1988, Nelson, Rated R

Christopher Penn
Lori Singer
Adrian Pasdar

Directed by Ken Friedman
Written by Zbigniew Kempinski & Nick Wechsler

Rebellion is an American tradition of sorts, one often reflected in Hollywood films -- most notablyThe Wild Ones, Rebel Without A Cause, Easy Rider. In fact, it will probably strike the viewer of this film that those who made it were striving to create an Easy Rider for the Eighties. If so, they miss the mark by a country mile. Tuck and Dar (Christopher Penn and Adrian Pasdar) are young men trapped in the rust belt of Pennsylvania where their prospects are so bleak that they decide to go to California. Stealing cars and food along the way, they meet a sexy, off-the-wall young woman named Annie (Lori Singer), Annie saw her town destroyed by a chemical plant health hazard, and she wants to strike back at big business. Tuck and Dar become her willing accomplices, at least for a while, as they laugh and love their way from one petty crime to another in a cross-country odyssey that gives them plenty of opportunity to deplore, in their own profane and half-coherent way, the slow but inexorable destruction of the environment -- not to mention society -- caused, according to them, by industry and commerce.
It's an interesting premise, and certainly boasts of a cast with talent. Sadly, the premise is wrecked, the talent squandered, as Penn, Pasdar and the writers fail to make of Tuck and Dar sympathetic characters. We expect our rebels to have redeeming virtues. Tuck and Dar have none. They are punks, pure and simple. When Annie joins them the viewer has to wonder if she's crazy -- and, as it turns out, she is. Were our three protagonists breaking the rules for any other reason than juvenile delinquency and, in Annie's case, sheer lunacy, then we might have accepted their actions as justifiable. Instead, they succeed in demonstrating that rebels without a cause are usually nothing more than cheap crooks, a la Bonnie and Clyde, who only contribute to the corruption of society rather than misunderstood heroes striking a blow against that corruption.

Eighties Club rating: *

"Facts Of Love," The Rubindos
"Secret Girl," Sonic Youth
"Life Is Hard," Timbuk 3
"Can't Get Enough." Fabulous Thunderbirds
"Love Like Blood," John Hiatt
"The Ballad Of The Little Man," World Party
(& more)

1986, De Laurentiis, Rated R

William Peterse
 Dennis Farina
Tom Noonan

Written & Directed by Michael Mann

Five years before Anthony Hopkins gave an unforgettable performance as serial killer Hannibal Lektor in The Silence of the Lambs, Michael Mann directed his own adaptation of the Thomas Harris novel Red Dragon and introduced film audiences to Lektor for the first time in Manhunter. This is, in some respects, a better movie than The Silence of the Lambs. It chronicles the attempt by FBI profiler Will Graham (William Petersen) to track down a killer nicknamed the Tooth Fairy. Graham's special talent is an ability to get into the head of the murderer he seeks. But he has retired due to the mental stress suffered while doing that very thing in a successful effort to capture Dr. Hannibal Lektor. Now, lured back to the Bureau by buddy Jack Crawford (Dennis Farina), Graham uses Lektor to help him track down a man who has butchered two families. Graham suffers tremendously on an emotional level as he races against time to stop the Tooth Fairy before he strikes again. To complicate matters, the diabolically clever Lektor engages in a secret correspondence with the Tooth Fairy and seeks revenge against Graham by urging his protege to murder the FBI agent's family.
Miami Vice-creator Michael Mann is so committed to the creation of an unique visual artistry that his work sometimes subordinates substance to style. But in this case, a film that seeks to explore the tormented mind of a serial killer, the director's eccentricity enhances the story. Mann crafts one of the most gripping climactic scenes in recent film history as Graham risks his life to save a blind woman who is being stalked by the Tooth Fairy -- a chilling sequence set to Iron Butterfly's "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida." Petersen, fresh from To Live and Die in L.A. (1985), is competent in the lead role. Scottish actor Brian Cox plays Lektor, and though he has but two scenes he manages to convey as much menace as Hopkins does in The Silence of the Lambs. (The story is that Cox was approached about reprising his role in The Silence of the Lambs but was unable to do so because of a prior commitment.) Tom Noonan does a fine job as the Tooth Fairy, a truly terrifying villain -- and at the same time a tragic figure, an ungainly man spurned by the living who finds he can inspire dreadful awe in those he chooses for his victims. Though we see not a single murder in the film, Manhunter produces nail-biting tension from its truly chilling opening sequence to the gut-wrenching conclusion. Though there are a few technical flaws, this is a top-notch thriller. We advise you to watch it -- but not by yourself.

Eighties Club rating: ***

US box office: $8.6 million
US release date: 8.22.86

"In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida," Iron Butterfly
"Heartbeat," Red 7
"The Big Hush," Shriekback
"Evaporation," Shriekback
"Strong As I Am," The Prime Movers
(& more)

1987, Gladden, Rated PG

Andrew McCarthy
Kim Cattrall
James Spader

Directed by Michael Gottlieb
Written by Michael Gottlieb & Edward Rugoff

Here's the premise: A window dresser for a Philadelphia department store creates and falls in love with a mannequin inhabited by a time-traveling Egyptian princess who comes to life only in his presence.  Sound preposterous?  Of course it does.  But no more so than the premise of a hit film a few years earlier in which a man falls in love with a mermaid.  Mannequin may not be as well-crafted as Splash (1984), and it does not have the benefit of Tom Hanks' comedic genius, and many of its gags are infantile -- but this is a romantic fantasy that, magically, is greater than the sum of its parts.  It's a zany,heartwarming, and irrepressibly upbeat love story, thanks in large measure to the performances of its stars.  Brat-Packer Andrew McCarthy uses a charmingly light touch in his portrayal of Jonathan Switcher, whom everyone assumes is a very eccentric (if not disturbed) genius because he cavorts with a store window dummy.  Kim Cattrall has never been more breathtaking and watchable than she is as Emmy, the Egyptian princess whose search for true love has lasted for 4,000 years.  Estelle Getty, of Golden Girls fame, plays feisty store owner Claire Timkin, who believes Switcher's window-dressing talents will save her family-owned business from bankruptcy or worse, a sell-out to unscrupulous rival B.J. Wert (Steve Vinovich).  James Spader is delightful as the sleazy Richards, who is in cahoots with Wert to force his boss Claire Timkin into selling the store.  Above all, Meshach Taylor (who would go on to star in TV's Designing Women) is the real scene-stealer as the hysterically flamboyant Hollywood Montrose, a gay window dresser who befriends Switcher.  The film has two more assets worth mentioning -- much of it was filmed in Philadelphia's Wannemaker Department Store, a stunning architectural masterpiece, while Jefferson Starship's theme song, "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now," is one of the great love songs of the Eighties, and earned an Oscar nomination.  Critics of the day slammed Mannequin, but it has become a sentimental favorite for many a hopeless romantic, and rightly so.

Eighties Club rating: **

The Men's Club
1986, Atlantic, Rated R

Roy Scheider
Harvey Keitel
David Dukes

Directed by Peter Medak
Written by Leonard Michaels

In the decade that brought us classic "encounter group" films like The Big Chill and The Breakfast Club, perhaps it was inevitable that Hollywood would do a treatment of Leonard Michael's novel about a group of men who get together to talk about life -- specifically, what went wrong with theirs. The end result is 100 minutes of unimitigated disaster. One of the most talented casts ever assembled -- Roy Scheider, David Dukes, Harvey Keitel, Frank Langella, Treat Williams, Richard Jordan, Stockard Channing, and others -- is completely wasted on a script that makes this reviewer even more ashamed of his gender than he should be.  Michael's story presents us with seven men -- a doctor, a professor, a psychiatrist among them -- but only develops a few of them.  Cavanaugh (Scheider) is an ex-pro baseball player who knows his sex addiction is destroying his marriage but lacks the character to do anything about it. Solly (Keitel) is trapped in a romanceless marriage and, mistaking passion for affection, falls in "love" with any woman who french kisses him. Kramer (Jordan) is a shrink who is so messed up you'll swear off therapy forever. Phillip (Dukes) is the only one in the group who seems to have his act together; he is content with his married life and reluctant to join the club, doing so as a favor to his friend Cavanaugh. He feels superior to the others and is critical of them, especially his friend, but in the end is exposed as a hypocrite when he succumbs to the guiles of a prostitute. And what of the other characters? They remain undeveloped -- for which we are grateful. These guys make Rambo and the Terminator look like well-adjusted individuals.
The events of the film take place in two settings. The first is Kramer's house, which the men demolish in a way that makes the Animal House frat boys look like mature adults. Rousted from there by Kramer's wife (Stockard Channing, who must have been relieved that she was only on screen for about five minutes in this stinker), the group treks to a high-class bordello called the House of Affection. But by then we don't care -- we've already lost whatever sympathy we might have had for any of them, and we don't wonder that such boorish, self-centered and clueless characters have troubled personal lives. In the end we are asked to believe that after a night of orgiastic excess Cavanaugh has seen the error of his ways and resolves to go home and make things right with his wife. (One can only hope she doesn't let him in the door.) Squandering an opportunity to delve into the male psyche, The Men's Club instead portrays men as pigs unworthy of redemption.  What a waste.

Eighties Club rating: *

US box office: $2.4 million
US release date: September 1986

Micki & Maude
1984, Columbia, Rated PG-13

Dudley Moore
Amy Irving
Ann Reinking

Directed by Blake Edwards
Written by Jonathan Reynolds

Dudley Moore, leading purveyor of slapstick comedy in the 80s, is perhaps best known for his roles in Arthur and "10," and indeed he gave superb performances in both of those films. But his work in Micki & Maude tends to be overlooked. Consider this: it isn't easy to engender audience sympathy for a character like Rob Salinger, a TV journalist who happens to be a bigamist. When we meet Rob he is married to Micki (Ann Reinking), an up-and-coming attorney who is too busy with her career to give in to Rob's demands for a family. Enter Maude (Amy Irving), a beautiful cellist who wants a child more than anything. Ignored by Micki, Rob succumbs to temptation and has an affair with Maude. Lo and behold, she becomes pregnant. Rob is about to tell Micki he wants a divorce when she informs him that she, too, is carrying his child. Boos and hisses for Rob are in order, right? Wrong.
Only terminal prudery could prevent a viewer from sympathizing with Rob, who obviously cares deeply for both women and for the children he has sired. Besides, this is a farce, expertly delivered by director Blake Edwards and first-time screenwriter Jonathan Reynolds, not a morality tale. Moore has never been better as he careens from one funny scene to another, trying to lead two lives and cater to every whim of both pregnant wives. When both Maude and Micki end up in adjacent hospital delivery rooms, Moore's antics go into hyperdrive, and the laughs are rapid-fire. In the end, of course, Rob Salinger's double-dealing is exposed, but Edwards wisely skims over the heartbreak and rushes through an improbable solution. Still, Micki & Maude is a funny and touching film that showcases the considerable talents of both director and male lead.

Eighties Club rating: ***

US box office: $26.2 million
US release date: 12.21.84

"Something New In My Life," Stephen Bishop
"On The Sunny Side Of The Street," Frank Sinatra
"Witchcraft," Frank Sinatra

Golden Globes
Best Actor - Comedy/Musical (Dudley Moore)

The Mighty Quinn
1989, MGM/UA, Rated R

Denzel Washington
Mimi Rogers
Robert Townsend

Directed by Carl Schenkel
Written by Hampton Fancher

In the Eighties Denzel Washington landed a leading role in the hit TV series St. Elsewhere and made movies during the summer hiatuses.  In 1989 he appeared in the hit film Glory, for which he won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.  He followed this success with The Mighty Quinn, in which he plays Xavier Quinn, the police chief of a small Caribbean island rocked by the murder of a white businessman.  Everyone seems to think Quinn's boyhood friend Maubee (Robert Townsend), a lovable scoundrel, is the murderer.  In fact, Maubee was framed, and Quinn won't play along, though the powers that be fully expect him to be a good boy and do so.  By pursuing the investigation, Quinn places his career in jeopardy -- and his life in danger.  To complicate matters, he is pursued by the seductive Hadley (Mimi Rogers), which doesn't make keeping his tumultuous marriage together any easier.
Director Carl Schenkel skilfully uses the film's plot to establish a whole host of fascinating characters -- two of the best are the sleazy hitman named Miller played by M.Emmet Walsh (in a sense an encore of the role he did so well in the early-Eighties film Blood Simple) and the voodoo queen Uba Pearl, played by screen legend Esther Rolle.  Shot in scenic Port Antonio, Jamaica, The Mighty Quinn has it all -- fine acting, a good plot, and a great reggae soundtrack.  Though it is a mystery with a good bit of violence, this is a fun, upbeat movie.  Perhaps the best of many well-crafted scenes is the one in which Quinn sits in on the piano for a rousing rendition of the song from which the film's title is derived.  Oh, and as always, Denzel Washington does an outstanding job.

Eighties Club rating: ***

US box office: $4.6 million
US release date: 2.16.89

"Guess Who's Coming To Dinner," Michael Rose
"Ain't Nothing Going On But The Rent," Conroy Smith
"John Public," Gregory Isaacs
"Your Eyes Only," The Pinchers
"The Mighty Quinn," Rose, Ralph, Marley & Prendergast
"Cakewalk Into Town," Denzel Washington
"Yellow Moon," Neville Brothers
"I Gotta Keep Moving On," UB40
(& more)

Miles From Home
1988, Cinecom, Rated R

Richard Gere
Kevin Anderson
Penelope Ann Miller

Directed by Gary Sinise
Written by Chris Gerolmo

Three major Hollywood films addressed the farm crisis of the 1980s -- Country (previously reviewed by the Eighties Club), The River, and Miles From Home. Of the three, this film is the least effective, perhaps because the loss of the family farm is merely the catalyst that sends Frank and Terry Roberts (Richard Gere and Kevin Anderson) on a brief but violent cross-country crime spree that is, in substance, a pale comparison to modern classics like Badlands and Thelma & Louise. The Roberts farm was once a successful enterprise -- not to mention a historical landmark; as the first scene reveals, it was the Iowa farm visited by Nikita Khrushchev during his 1959 journey to America. But after their father dies, Frank and Terry prove themselves to be indifferent farmers, and before long they are so in debt that the bank is forced to sell the old home place out from under them. The brooding, headstrong Frank burns house, barn and crops in an act of defiance. Little does he know that he and his brother will become folk heroes overnight, as the arson is perceived by some to be a courageous protest against bank foreclosure policies that threaten the small farmer. Frank tries to play the role of a rebel with a cause, but fails because he's really only an angry young man lashing out at the world. After such a promising start, the film pays mere lip service to the farm issue, as the Roberts brothers embark on a journey that leads, eventually, to self-discovery.
And that, after all, is what Miles From Home is all about -- a portrait of two young men who don't know where they fit into the world. His sudden celebrity status as an "Outlaw for the 80s" -- as a Rolling Stone interview describes him -- goes to Frank's head because, for a few days at least, he is somebody. Loyalty to his older brother forces Terry to tag along, but when Frank comes close to killing a bank official, Terry has had enough; he opts to take his chances with the law while Frank continues his flight to Canada. Yet Frank's journey has, in a way, already come to an end, for he's faced the fact that he is a "loser," and by doing so immediately ceases to be one. Kevin Anderson, in only his second feature film, gives a sympathetic performance as Terry, while Gere does a fine job as the volatile Frank. Penelope Ann Miller stars as Sally, a young woman whose love for Terry drives a wedge between the brothers. John Malkovich and Helen Hunt appear in supporting roles, while actor Gary Sinise does a competent job from the director's chair. Competent is a good word to describe the film itself. There's nothing blatantly wrong with it; we've just seen it all before, in better vehicles.

The Eighties Club: **

US box office: $189,000
US release date: September 1988

Modern Girls
1986, Paramount, Rated PG-13

Daphne Zuniga
Virginia Madsen
Cynthia Gibb

Directed by Jerry Kramer
Written by Laurie Craig & Anita Rosenberg

Margo, Kelly and Cece (Daphne Zuniga, Virginia Madsen and CynthiaGibb) are a trio of single roommates who work by day and club-hop by night. Margo is looking for the perfect mate, while Kelly is smitten with an insufferably vain DJ and Cece is obsessed with rock star Bruno X. Kelly makes a date with Clifford (Clayton Rohner), a shy and bookish young man, but when she stands him up the other two girls -- who view being stuck at home without transport on a Friday night the equivalent of Dante's seventh level of Hell -- persuade Clayton to drive them around town. For the remainder of the film we are subjected to a tour of L.A.'s club scene, as the three girls and their reluctant escort careen from one mishap to another. There are a few amusing moments, and many not-so-funny ones as our heroines work their way to the overdue conclusion that the only thing they can really depend on is their friendship for one another. In the process, Mrgo falls in love with Clifford, who is living proof that being cool is not what makes a person worthwhile.
Some critics dismissed Modern Girls as worthless fluff that wasted the talents of the three leads; Zuniga had grabbed Hollywood's attention with her role in The Sure Thing (1985), Gibb was parlaying a stint in TV's Fame into a film career, and Madsen would go on to prove that she was more than just a sultry siren. If anything, this movie demonstrates that all three deserved better material. Clayton Rohner stands out with his dual performance as the somewhat nerdish Clifford and the waycool Bruno X. Still, Modern Girls is of cultural interest if only because it showcases the fashion and music of the mid-Eighties single scene. Though it has numerous shortcomings, the film is worth viewing for that reason alone.

Eighties Club rating: **

US box office: $605,000
US release date: 12.13.86

"But Not Tonight," Depeche Mode
"Girls Night Out," Toni Basil
"Jealousy," Club Nouveau
"No Promises," Icehouse
"Some Candy Talking," The Jesus and Mary Chain
(& more)

The Money Pit
1986, Amblin, Rated PG

Tom Hanks
Shelley Long
Alexander Godunov

Directed by Richard Benjamin
Written by David Giler

 Walter Fielding (Tom Hanks) and Anna Crowley (Shelley Long) are live-in lovers who must find new digs in a hurry when her ex, super-conceited maestro Max Beissert (Alexander Godunov), returns to New York and has them evicted from the Manhattan apartment he owns. Our two lovebirds are conned into buying a cut-rate country estate, only to have the mansion fall down around their ears. Literally. The staircase collapses, a bathtub falls through the floor, the front door falls off its hinges -- and that's just for starters. Walter and Anna sink all the money they can beg and borrow into repairing the house. Along the way they have to deal with greedy contractors and Max's pursuit of Anna. As the mansion goes so does their relationship; the stress and strain lead to a breakup.
Okay, it doesn't sound that funny -- but it is. The Money Pit is filled with hilarious sight gags, with unrelenting slapstick that reminds us of the Buster Keaton classics. Tom Hanks has a field day; you'll laugh out loud when he gets stuck in a hole in the floor, is accosted by a bee as he strolls through the grounds of the estate, has an electrifying experience in the kitchen, and single-handedly destroys the scaffolding used by the work crews trying to put the house back together again. Fresh from a strong film debut in Witness (1985), ballet great Alexander Godubov is an excellent choice for the role of the cynical and self-absorbed Max. The talents of Maureen Stapleton, Philip Bosco and Joe Mantegna are under-utilized in their supporting roles.
Loosely based on the 1948 classic Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House, starring Cary Grant and Myrna Loy, The Money Pit failed to impress most film critics. Perhaps it pales in comparison to its predecessor, but this movie was never meant to be sophisticated comedy. The Money Pit takes a humorless situation and turns it into farce, which is all one can do with such a situation. Anyone who has ever sunk money into a lemon, be it a house, a car, or an appliance, understands. And in the new prosperity of the Eighties, when we conspicuously consumed all kinds of products of questionable quality, the film took on a certain poignancy. Money and material things can bring us more misery than happiness, and when that happens laughter is still the best medicine. The Money Pit delivers plenty of laughs.

Eighties Club rating: **

US box office: $37.5 million
US release date: 3.26.86

"I Gotta Be Me," Sammy Davis, Jr.
"Rush Rush," Deborah Harry
"La Bamba," Ritchie Valens
(& more)

Moon Over Parador
1988, Universal, Rated PG-13

Richard Dreyfuss
Raul Julia
Sonia Braga

Directed by Paul Mazursky
Written by Leon Capetanos & Paul Mazursky from a story by Charles G. Booth

Leave it to Paul Mazursky (Moscow on the Hudson, Down and Out in Beverly Hills) to make a movie that would have been immediately embraced by filmgoers forty years ago. In fact, this is the kind of comedy-fantasy that was well-received during the Golden Age of Hollywood. (It would have worked, back then, as a musical.) But in the 1980s, Moon Over Parador was largely -- and undeservedly -- overlooked. The plot itself is borrowed from Anthony Hope's classic novel, The Prisoner of Zenda. Second-rate actor Jack Noah is in the Latin American country of Parador on a film shoot when Parador's dictator, Alphonse Simms, dies of a heart attack. Because he bears an uncanny resemblance to Simms, Noah is recruited to impersonate the dictator by Roberto Straussman (Raul Julia), the neo-Nazi power behind the throne. Straussman makes the reluctant actor an offer he can't refuse -- either he poses as Simms for a few days while steps are taken to prepare the country for the shock of their leader's demise, or he'll face his own demise. Noah pulls it off, and a few days stretches into a year, as Straussman and his cronies decide to keep Simms "alive" so that they may maintain their control of Parador. Meanwhile, Noah and the dictator's mistress, Madonna (Sonia Braga) fall in love and attempt to use the power of the presidency to make life better for the people of Parador.
Considering the amazing talent in both cast and crew, Moon Over Parador is a disappointment. Dreyfuss is a remarkable performer, but in this instance playing an actor presents him with a challenge he does not always meet. His performance is a bit too satirical and, at times, slapstick; had he provided his character with more subtlety and sophisticated, Noah's transformation from self-obsessed actor to selfless crusader might have been more realistic. Raul Julia, as usual, is a delight as the Machiavellian Mr. Straussman, and Sonia Braga scorches the screen as the sultry Madonna, a woman whom we first take as a haughty golddigger, only to discover that she has a heart of compassionate gold. Look for Jonathan Winters in a tailor-made role as a scheming American agent posing as, well, as a businessman interested only in making a buck and sampling the pleasures of Parador. (Look, also, for the director as the dictator's mother!) The problem, though, is that the second half of the movie fails to live up to the promise of the first. Once Noah is ensconced in the presidential palace, Mazursky has the opportunity to transform his film from sly comedy to a satirical commentary on totalitarianism and geopolitics (just as Down and Out in Beverly Hills skewered the American upper class).  But he doesn't take it, and the movie remains a light-hearted comedy in which the only matter to be resolved is the impossible romance between Noah and Madonna -- a pleasant way to while away the time, but not much more than that.

Eighties Club rating: **

US box office: $11.4 million
US release date: 9.9.88

1987, MGM, Rated PG

Nicolas Cage
Olympia Dukakis

Directed by Norman Jewison
Written by John Patrick Shanley

With films like Silkwood and Mask and Moonstruck, Cher proved in the '80s that she was an actress of formidable talent, and for her performance in this ever-popular romantic comedy she won a well-deserved Oscar. She stars as Loretta Castorini, a thirty-something widow who lives with her parents and is engaged to be married to Johnny Cammareri (Danny Aiello), a good man she doesn't really love. When Johnny goes to Sicily to visit his dying mother, he makes her promise to contact his younger brother Ronnie (Nicolas Cage), with whom he has been estranged for some time, and to invite him to the wedding. But when Loretta meets Ronnie, sparks fly. Loretta tries to ignore her feelings -- love hurt her once before -- but can't resist Cupid's arrows. (Who can forget the scene in which Ronnie tells her he loves her, and Loretta responds with a hard slap to the face and the order to "Snap out of it!"?) In fact, love is on a rampage in the Castorini household. Beset by a midlife crisis, Loretta's father is having an affair. Her mother teeters on the brink of becoming involved with another man. The key to happiness, of course, is to be able to distinguish between true love and the "love" that disguises loneliness or boredom or ego, and to accept that one cannot be in love without risking heartache. In the end, Johnny isn't willing to risk it; he bows out of marriage with Loretta, he says, because he thinks if he gets married his mother will die. Johnny will never know the pure happiness of love, but neither will he know the heartache that comes with it. Ronnie and Loretta, however, are willing to take the chance. "For better or worse" are not just idle words -- just ask Loretta's folks and they'll tell you.
This is a story that's been told countless times before in film. But it's seldom been told so well. Screenwriter John Patrick Shanley, who won an Oscar for the screenplay, has crafted an intelligent, heartwarming tale with seamless plotting and dialogue that rings true, especially since it's delivered by an extraordinary cast. Olympia Dukakis got an Academy Award (Best Supporting Actress) for her role as Loretta's cynical mother, but Aiello and Vincent Gardenia (the father) were just as deserving. And Nicolas Cage offers up a tour-de-force as the one-armed, opera-loving baker who captures Loretta's heart. Such a high-voltage cast working with such dynamite material might have overwhelmed a lesser director than Norman Jewison (Fiddler on the Roof, The Thomas Crown Affair). But Jewison knew how to work with an ensemble cast, and sticks to the premise that less is more; no one character is elevated above the others, so that by the end of the film the viewer has met a half-dozen fully realized -- and therefore very real -- people. That they're Italian and wear their hearts on their sleeves just adds zest to the mix; I can't imagine Moonstruck being half as funny or poignant if it were set in a WASPish household.

Eighties Club rating: ***

US box office: $80.6 million
US release date: 12.18.87

"That's Amore," Dean Martin
"It Must Be Him," Vicki Carr
(& more; Capitol)

Academy Awards
Best Actress (Cher)
Best Supporting Actress
(Olympia Dukakis)
Best Screenplay
(John Patrick Shanley)

Golden Globes
Best Actress - Comedy/Musical
Best Supporting Actress - Comedy/Musical
(Olympia Dukakis)

The Morning After
1986, Lorimar, Rated R

Jane Fonda
Jeff Bridges
Raul Julia

Directed by Sidney Lumet
Written by James Hicks

The idol worship indulged in by so many in the Eighties where Jane Fonda is concerned reached the summit of absurdity with an Oscar nomination for her portrayal of Alex Sternbergen, a washed-up lush of an actress who awakens next to a dead man in Sidney Lumet's misbegotten would-be thriller, The Morning After. Not even sure if she killed the soft-porn merchant in whose blood-soaked bed she finds herself, Alex first tries to flee L.A. and, failing that, shacks up with a most unlikely ally, bigoted ex-cop Turner Kendall (Jeff Bridges.) Together they bungle their way into solving the crime, and manage to make time for a rather tepid romance in the process. Seems Alex's estranged husband, ambitious hairdresser Joaquin Manero (Raul Julia), framed Alex for the murder of the porn peddler, who was blackmailing the upper-crust woman he wants to marry -- after divorcing Alex, of course. Add to this hackneyed plot some implausible contrivances -- Joaquin actually moves the corpse from the crime scene into the shower at Alex's apartment -- and you have a recipe for disaster.
Jeff Bridges sleepwalks through his least appealing role, while Fonda chews up so much scenery in her overwrought performance that it seems only fitting that her acting career took a header after this film was released. We suppose she garnered the Oscar nomination because it took "courage" for someone so politically correct to play a wanton woman like Alex, but when the actress obviously has no sympathy for the character she plays you can't expect the audience to have any, either. In the 1980s Hollywood was often accused -- sometimes rightfully so -- of promoting style over substance, and that's certainly the case here. The problem with The Morning After is that they didn't even provide the style.

Eighties Club rating: *

US box office: $25.1 million
US release date: 12.25.86

"Addicted To Love," Robert Palmer
"Can't Stop Giving It," The Earons
(& more)

Mystic Pizza
1988, Goldwyn, Rated R

Annabeth Gish
Julia Roberts
Lili Taylor

Directed by Donald Petrie
Written by Perry Howze & Alfred Uhry from a story by Amy Jones

Dubbed by some the ultimate "chick flick" of the 1980s, Mystic Pizza stars Julia Roberts, Annabeth Gish and Lili Taylor as three young women who are "coming of age" in the seaport of Mystic, Connecticut. Daisy Arujo (Julia Roberts) feels like all she has going for her is her looks; Daisy's sister Kat (Annabeth Gish) is the smart one -- she's headed to Yale when the summer is over. Their friend Jojo Barboza (Lili Taylor), is in love with Bill (Vincent D'Onofrio) but isn't sure she's ready for the constraints of marriage. The trio work as waitresses at the local pizza shop. And all three, fresh out of high school, are poised on the verge of adulthood, trying to figure out what they want from life -- not to mention love. Daisy tries to capture a preppy rich boy, Charles Gordon Windsor, Jr. (Adam Storke), only to discover that she doesn't fit into his upper-class world. Kat makes the mistake of falling for an older man, an architect for whom she babysits while his wife is in Europe; she's a budding intellectual unequipped to deal with the strong emotions that overwhelm her, and is consigned to heartbreak as a consequence. Meanwhile, Jojo is about to lose Bill, who wants a commitment she's afraid to make.
Mystic Pizza is touted as the film that set Julia Roberts firmly on the road to stardom -- two years later she would make Pretty Woman, and the rest, as they say, is history. Lil Taylor would go on to make Say Anything and Born on the Fourth of July. Gish would appear in both feature films and made-for-TV movies, as well as have a recurring role in The X-Files TV series in the Nineties. All three give fine performances, with Gish deserving special mention for handling the most difficult role in convincing fashion. The stars are aided by an intelligent script addressing a whole host of issues that female viewers relate to regardless of generation. Sufficient time is given to all three of the film's storylines, and all are brought to a satisfactorily realistic conclusion. Mystic Pizza is genuine; like life, it can be uplifting one moment and downbeat the next, with a few unexpected twists and turns along the way. When it's over you won't be completely satisfied with how things have turned out. But then, that's how it is in the real world.

Eighties Club rating: ***

US box office: $12.8 million
US release date: 10.14.88

"Don't Let The Stars Get In Your Eyes," Perry Como
"Is It Hot In Here," Renee Geyer
"I Ain't Got Nobody," Louis Prima
"RESPECT," Aretha Franklin
"I've Got You Under My Skin"
Frank Sinatra
(& more)