Tag Archives: julia roberts

Beauty in the Movies: Mystic Pizza

I’d planned to feature this movie three weeks ago when it would have been more seasonally apropos, but sometimes Netflix disks malfunction and you just have to deal with it. It’s technically still Fall though, so I ask you to hold off on your holiday mood for a moment (I promise a more seasonally appropriate film next week, barring any Netflix complications) while you celebrate the last of the fallen leaves with a 1980s classic, Mystic Pizza.

Mystic Pizza is one of the few coming of age stories about women, and despite being a “chick flick” (god I’m sick of that label) it doesn’t follow the typical formula. Although many critics falsely state that Mystic Pizza is about three high school girls, or three girls who’ve just graduated from high school, it actually takes place during that limbo period after high school, in your late teens and early twenties, where you’re trying to figure out your place in the world as an adult.


The story centers on three women in the port town of Mystic Connecticut where they work at a pizza parlor known for it’s mysteriously delicious sauce and owned by mother figure Leona (Conchata Ferrell). Daisy Arujo (Julia Roberts) is a free spirit, she is sexy and sassy and looking for a way out of Mystic, any way she can. Her younger sister Kat (Annabeth Gish) is slinging pizzas to save money for tuition at Yale, where she has recently been accepted. Kat is bookish and lacks the big hair and chunky jewelry of her peers—that’s how you know she’s smart. She also likes astronomy and wears pleated pants. Jojo Barboza (Lili Taylor), is practically a third sister, and just as confused about her future as Daisy, especially after fainting at her wedding, much to the surprise of her fiancée (Vincent D’Onofrio).

The three girls, and most of the town, are Portuguese, which plays largely into the story. During the off-season Mystic is blissfully free of the wealthy folks who “summer” in the quaint seaside town. So when Charles Gordon Windsor, Jr. (Adam Storke) shows up at a local bar having been exiled to his parents beach house after getting kicked out of law school, Daisy can’t help but take notice. The two then embark on a whirlwind romance, despite the hindrance of their economic and class differences. The relationship is a far more convincing portrayal of cross-class love than has been explored in other films (ahem, Pretty in Pink, ahem).

At the same time, Kat finds herself in a seemingly doomed relationship of her own. In an effort to score more tuition money she takes a babysitting job watching the child of Yale-educated, ginger-haired architect Tim Travers (William R. Moses). From the minute he steps on-screen you know this pairing is a bad idea, but Kat is naive enough to think a babysitter-employer romance can turn out well.  Although it’s a clichéd situation, it is acted with such conviction by Gish that your heart goes out to her. After all, the reason clichés exist is because they happen often in real life. Everyone likes to think they’re the exception, but rarely is it true. It’s an incredibly common disappointment which requires a willing blindness that so many of us have been guilty of—but it’s learning from our mistakes and experiences which signifies a coming-of-age.

Unlike the others, Jojo and her fisherman fiancée Bill’s relationship, is a cliché turned on its head. Jojo loves Bill but would rather have sex than talk about marriage. When Bill renames his boat “nympho” after her, Jojo screams at him from the dock “you can’t force me to do something I’m not ready to do…and until I am, if I am, the answer is NO!”. It’s an empowering moment, and one that should be equally noted by men who are hesitant to walk down the aisle. Forcing anyone to get married is a bad idea, and if it comes to that, it’s probably best that both parties step back and think about what they’re willing to compromise for the happiness of the person they love, sometimes it’s worth the compromise, and sometimes it’s not—yet another major life lesson thrown into this atypical “chick flick”.

Based on the reviews on IMDB (an fascinating way to see how differently people see the world) a lot of men seem utterly confused by Jojo’s character, as if the idea of a woman who didn’t want to get married but wanted to have sex was entirely fictional. What that says to me is that some men really don’t know women at all, maybe that’s why we keep getting the same tired “chick flicks”. It’s also pretty enlightened that, despite being called a nympho by her fiancée, Jojo isn’t slut-shamed, or made into a caricature of a sex-crazed women (à la Samantha in SATC).

I have to point out Matt Damon’s brief film debut in which he plays a preppy rich kid by the name of “steamer” whose only line is “mom, do you want my green stuff?”. When Roger Ebert reviewed this film in 1988, he said “I have a feeling that “Mystic Pizza” may someday become known for the movie stars it showcased back before they became stars”. I don’t think he was talking about Matt Damon, but Ebert was correct in predicting a lot of big talent would get its start in this film. Obviously Julia Roberts, but also Lili Taylor, Vincent D’Onofrio and even the lesser known Gish (who has continued to work steadily) got their first leading roles in this film.

While Mystic Pizza might not be the most unpredictable or solidly written film, it has endured because of its honesty, which at times may seem saccharine (youth is often sweet as well as sour though isn’t it?). For a lighthearted romantic film, it deals with some big issues; racism, classism, sex, friendship, and figuring out who you are and who you want to be with. If the acting weren’t so earnest, if the clichés weren’t present, the story wouldn’t ring as true, because the most charming part of the film is its smallness. It sucks that when this movie is mentioned it’s emphasized that the characters are blue-collar, hard workers, blah, blah, blah, because what does that say about most films out there? Everyone is inexplicably rich, and how they came to be that way is casually thrown aside (especially in the “chick flick” genre). It’s sad that we don’t see more films about people like the rest of us, because there are just as many interesting stories to be told about everyday people living and working through their “little” lives.

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Melrose Heights Jacket
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Acid Wash Jegging
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15 Denier Sheer Tights
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Cropped Leggings
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Moncler Fairisle Sweater
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Black Lace Bow Scrunchie
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pizza box
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Beauty in the Movies: Steel Magnolias

This post has been long in coming, I have to thank Cecilia Ziko for the recommendation, but frankly I haven’t felt up to watching Steel Magnolias because I knew I would end up crying. I convinced myself that I had seen it so many times that it couldn’t effect me anymore, that I’d just watch it and since I already know what happens I wouldn’t be a total mess by the end. So the other night my fiancé and I spend a couple hours in 1980’s Louisiana, and between the two of us went through half a box of tissues (mostly me, but him too). I cried this time around more than I ever have, maybe it’s because I’m closer in age to Shelby now, or because I’m getting married in three months, or I’m just overly emotional, but it hit me hard. When you need to have a good cry, I can’t think of any other film that gets it done like Steel Magnolias, so I bring it to you this week for Beauty in the Movies because maybe you need a good cry, or maybe you just love it for the amazing female characters and the humor that they find even in the saddest of situations.

Steel Magnolias was originally a play written by Robert Harling based on his mother and sister’s endurance of life’s hardships with unbelievable strength (reading about that only made me cry all over again this morning). Robert Harling’s sister Susan was a type 1 diabetic, as is the character of Shelby, played by Julia Roberts in the film. Steel Magnolias opens on a Spring day in the fictional town of Chinquapin Louisiana, it’s Shelby Eatenton’s wedding day, and the whole town is in a commotion over the preparations. Shelby and her mother M’Lynn (Sally Field) are getting their hair done for the occasion at Truvy’s salon in the company of Truvy herself (Dolly Parton), Clairee (Olympia Dukakis) wife of the late mayor, and Annelle (Daryl Hannah), the new girl in town and a beautician at Truvy’s. The women discuss everything from recipes to wedding plans until Shelby has a diabetic episode, it’s one of the most powerful and upsetting scenes I’ve seen in a film dealing with illness. Shelby soon recovers with the help of some OJ and her mother’s care.

In the midst of the wedding madness we’re introduced to the cantankerous Ouiser Boudreaux (Shirley MacLaine) who lumbers through town dragged by her bewildered St. Bernard squawking at everyone she sees, including M’Lynn’s husband Drum (Tom Skerritt). That afternoon Shelby marries Louisiana lawyer Jackson Latcherie (Dylan McDermott) in a ceremony draped in her wedding colors—blush and bashful, or as her mother says “pink and pink”. While the town takes to the dance floor, M’Lynn expresses her worries to Jackson about Shelby’s ability to have children, and what the strain of carrying a child would do to her body. Shelby’s wedding is clearly bittersweet for M’Lynn, as she fears Shelby will ignore what the doctors have told her and choose to have a baby anyway. There is also an amazing armadillo cake, and this interchange between Truvy and Clairee:

Truvy: Well, these thighs haven’t gone out of the house without Lycra on them since I was 14.
Clairee: You were brought up right.

How can you not love these women?

After Shelby’s wedding the story jumps around in time, stopping at major holidays. First it’s Christmas, and M’Lynn receives the news she has been dreading, Shelby is pregnant. While everyone else rejoices, M’Lynn seeks solace in her friends, the only ones who can understand that what should be happy news, is actually devastating. I’m going to stop the summary there because if you haven’t seen it I don’t want to ruin it, but you should be prepared for some tears, so keep the tissues handy.

This film is filled with outstanding performances. Julia Roberts is both charming and authentic as Shelby, making her character so sympathetic it’s heartbreaking. Sally Field’s performance in one of the film’s final scenes is so moving I dare anyone to watch it without getting misty, and the supporting cast is obviously fantastic. This film wouldn’t be anything without Olympia Dukakis and Shirley MacLaine as the much-needed comic relief. Ouiser and Clairee are catty old bats who insult each other with fantastic quips at every other moment, but they also happen to be best friends, and no matter what they say, it’s clear they depend on each other more than anyone else. Dolly Parton plays Truvy with charming ease, and the woman sports pastel embroidered sweaters and mile high hair so elegantly that you’ll want to run out and get yourself some shoulder pads and clip-on earrings immediately. Daryl Hannah plays born again Christian Annelle with annoying perfection, but more than anything the magic is in the way these characters, and the actresses who play them, interact with each other to form a convincing and endearing group of friends.

What is it about tearjerkers? When done right a film can touch you so deeply that you can’t contain your sympathy for the characters, even if you know they’re just actors who go back to their glamorous lives after the credits roll. This film in particular touches so deeply because it feels real, Robert Harling lived this story, and so it doesn’t feel manipulative, it feels heartfelt. Harling even employed the actual hospital workers who were there with his family during their grief to play the roles of doctors and nurses. Even though it’s something you wouldn’t notice, it’s undeniable that the hospital scenes in this film feel authentic, and all the more painful because of it.

Sometimes you just need a good cry, and it feels so much better to cry about other people’s grief, maybe our own is too devastating. A film that can make you cry has touched you in some way, and even if it’s upsetting—it rattles you. You might not want to watch sad movies all the time, but every once in a while it feels good, maybe we crave the release without the reality.

The fact that this story was written by a man only makes it more powerful, because Harling bore witness to the strength of the women around him and obviously drew power from it. The title of the film comes from a line by M’Lynn as she’s talking about the agony of loss and how the men turned away from it leaving her alone to face the heartache, she says “Men are supposed to be made out of steel or something” and in that moment it’s clear that when it comes to heartache, these women endure loss by facing it head-on, no matter how delicate they may seem on the outside.

More than anything Steel Magnolias is about friendship, and how it helps us through grief. One of my favorite lines in this film comes when Truvy tells us “Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion”, and I can’t help but agree with her. What I love about this film is that it delivers that emotion, just when you’re a blubbering mess of tissues and tears, these women make you laugh out loud, they remind you there is still life after pain, and it’s worth living for. Spend some time with these ladies and you’re left feeling that life has to keep on going. Even in the darkest moments, there is light somewhere, and sometimes all it takes is a good friend to show you where to find it.

Have a great weekend everyone, I hope you all spend it with some good friends, and don’t forget to tell them about this blog!

Here’s your shopping guide so you too can look like a southern flower on the outside, even if you’re tough as steel within.

Livia Floral Dress
$27 – delias.com
More dresses »

tea rose bow clutch
$12 – fredflare.com
More clutches »

Gardenia Studs
$4.80 – canada.forever21.com


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Filed under Beauty in the movies