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On their 16. anniversary, during a shopping stroll, the lawyer Nick Fifer confesses his wife Deborah some affairs. She goes wild and insists on a divorce. After they agreed to the dividing up of their belongings, Deborah confesses having an affair, too. Now he gets very upset and wants the divorce for his part, but the last word is not spoken yet. Written by
Thomas Manhardt <Thomas.Manhardt@wu-wien.ac.at>
One of the DVD / home video sleeve covers features Woody Allen and Bette Midler physically fighting and attempting to strangle each other inside an elevator. However, no such scene appears in the actual movie. See more »
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Some films make the viewer a participant. Others make the viewer, well, a viewer. Others make the viewer a voyeur. SCENES FROM A MALL makes the viewer a third wheel. A very uncomfortable position to be in.
Like in real life, the third wheel is the poor schmuck who innocently accompanies a couple on a date or dinner or whatever and often ends up being less a companion than a witness, or worse, a referee, when a lovers' spat breaks out. In such a situation, all one can do is to keep looking at one's watch, pretend that there is nothing wrong and, above all else, don't get involved.
When it was announced that SCENES FROM A MALL would pair Bette Midler and Woody Allen together as a bickering couple who spend the day at the mall, I couldn't help but smile. Bette and Woody married, what a great idea. They both seem so different, yet so perfect together. And to their credit, they do have great chemistry here. They click. And they are certainly convincing as a couple with a whole boat load of marital issues. Maybe too convincing. What could have been an amusing thread of a story if interwoven into a larger tapestry becomes instead a tiresome ordeal. Woody and Bette argue and bicker and insult and break up and kiss and make up and argue and bicker and insult some more. Their day-long excursion to the mall to do Christmas shopping becomes an extended primal therapy session. Despite the best efforts of the two stars, what begins as an amusing domestic comedy rapidly become just plain annoying.
The fault lies with writer/director Paul Mazursky, whose films -- good, bad or indifferent -- seldom have a strong focus and tend to ramble shamelessly. It is a style of film-making that, in theory, tries to represent realism, but in practice it violates the conventions of what we accept as film reality -- reelity, so to speak. Mazursky's films always tend to look and feel like rehearsals, not a finished production.
This film has it assets. Woody and Bette, of course. And the recreation of a California mall, mostly filmed on a New York soundstage is quite convincing (though how many malls feature ballroom dancing?). SCENES FROM A MALL looks right and is acted just right, but in the end, this trip to the mall wears you out, leaving you just wanting to go home.
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