I Love You to Death (1990) - Plot Summary Poster


Showing all 4 items
Jump to:


  • Joey works with Rosalie in their pizza parlor. She is convinced that he works all of the time for them and her world dissolves when she finds that he has been fooling around for years. Being Catholic, divorce is out of the question, so she and her mother and her best friend decide to kill him. Hopelessly incompetent as killers, they hire incompetent professionals as they beat, poison, and shoot Joey who remains oblivious to their attempts.

  • In Tacoma, Washington, ethnic Italian Joey Boca and his loving wife, ethnic Slav Rosalie Boca, have two children, own and operate their own successful pizzeria, and own an apartment building which Joey manages. All their customers and tenants seem to love affable Joey... perhaps a little too much as Joey is a chronic philanderer, something of which Rosalie is totally unaware. Things change when Rosalie secretly catches Joey undeniably cheating on her. After she gets over the initial shock and grief which makes her want to kill herself, she instead figures a better idea is to have Joey killed. She decides to confide in her mother, handy woman Nadja who lives with them and has not liked Joey for a long time for taking Rosalie for granted, and Devo Nod, Joey and Rosalie's younger busboy/cleaner at the pizzeria, he who Rosalie knows has always loved her. Unable to do the job to completion, they figure they need some professional help. Who Devo finds to do the job are druggie cousins Harlan and Marlon James, whose interest is solely in the money as they have never killed anyone before. Through the entire proceedings, the truth may set them all free.

  • Joey owns a pizza parlor, and is married to Rosalie. He's also a serial womanizer. Rosalie goes to extremes when she finds he has been cheating.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • In the opening scene Joey Boca (Kevin Kline), owner of Joey's Pizzeria in Tacoma, Washington, confesses his many marital infidelities to a dismayed Roman Catholic priest. Later, Joey gets a telephone call at the pizzeria from a lover, but he cuts her off because his wife, Rosalie Boca (Tracey Ullman), is working beside him. At closing time, Joey grabs his plumber's tool kit and goes next door to the Villa Rosalie apartments, which he also owns. Joey's assistant, Devo Nod (River Phoenix), mentions to Rosalie that she should be more vigilant because Lacey (Victoria Jackson), the pretty tenant who called about a plumbing problem, has an eye for Joey. Rosalie tells Devo that Joey cannot help it if women find him attractive. Besides, Joey is Italian and has a right to look. Devo counters that some men do more than look.

    That evening, Devo, who secretly loves Rosalie, "throws rune stones" to divine her future, and tells Rosalie the stones say she needs a change. Rosalie's Yugoslavian mother, Nadja (Joan Plowright), lives with the Boca family and helps care for their two young children, Dominic (Jon Kasdan) and Carla (Alison Porter). Nadja, who does not approve of Joey, reads in 'The Sun' tabloid newspaper that a woman stabbed her husband 27 times for not putting the lid back on a jar of mustard. Though Rosalie wants Joey to stay home and help with the pizzeria bookkeeping, he insists on going out. At a disco, Joey sweet-talks a young woman (Phoebe Cates) and goes home with her.

    The next day, he asks Devo why he spends so much time with Rosalie, and Devo asks Joey why he treats Rosalie so badly. Later, Rosalie meets Bridget (Heather Graham), a young woman looking for an apartment. Bridget tells Rosalie that when she met Joey last night, he told her he had a place to rent. However, as Rosalie walks Bridget next door to Villa Rosalie, Joey appears and tells Bridget to return tomorrow. At that moment, another pretty tenant, Dewey Brown (Kathleen York), shouts to Joey from an upstairs window and throws down his pizzeria cap, which he left in her apartment. Rosalie wonders aloud if Dewey has "eyes" for Joey. At dinner, Nadja and Joey argue. She yells in a Slavic language and he yells back in Italian.

    The next day, during a visit to the library, Rosalie accidentally witnesses Joey picking up Donna Joy (Michelle Joyner), a young woman, on the other side of a bookshelf. Joey grips Donna Joy's buttocks as they kiss, brushes off her concern about his wife, then hurries her back to her apartment for quick sex before returning to work. Shocked and betrayed, Rosalie cries in a park, then goes home to share her hatred of Joey with her mother. Rosalie wails that she will never divorce him because he would move in with other women. She would rather kill him. Nadja agrees, and suggest that if Rosalie cannot kill Joey, the least she can do is kill herself. Nadja knows a fellow Yugoslavian immigrant who will kill Joey for money. She reasons from her steady diet of tabloid newspapers that murder is an acceptable American pastime. She visits her Yugoslavian friend at his trailer near the river.

    That night, as Joey returns home, the would-be assassin, wearing an Abraham Lincoln mask, attacks him with a baseball bat, but misses. Joey chases him out of the yard and reports the attack to police detective Lt. Larry Schooner (James Gammon), a regular customer at Joey's Pizzeria. Since Joey often carries large amounts of money, he buys a .22 pistol. Meanwhile, Nadja, who worked as a vehicle mechanic in Yugoslavia, wires a bomb in Joey's automobile, but tries to stop him from turning the key the next morning when Rosalie gets in the car. Immediately Rosalie realizes what her mother has done, and both she and Nadja brace for the explosion. Nothing happens when Joey turns the key, but he is perplexed by their reaction.

    That night, Nadja and Rosalie cook a spicy spaghetti sauce dosed with sleeping pills, but Joey becomes happy and flatulent. Eating more spaghetti, he finally falls face first into his plate. With no other options, Nadja telephones Devo and asks him to come help them carry Joey to bed. Devo reluctantly agrees to shoot Joey with the .22 pistol, but he turns away before pulling the trigger and is not certain he hit his target because Joey's face is stained with spaghetti sauce. The victim awakens with a headache (having been shot in his head), and there is blood on his pillow. Devo insists he cannot bring himself to fire another shot, but he knows two cousins who might do it.

    At a pool hall, Devo offers $300 to junkies Harlan and Marlon James (William Hurt and Keanu Reeves). When they object to the low price, Devo explains that Joey is already half-dead, so all they have to do is finish the job. The cousins finally settle on $500. Meanwhile, Rosalie keeps Joey in bed, insisting that he feels bad because he suffers from a virus.

    The intoxicated James cousins arrive at the Boca house. Nadja gives them Joey's .22, but they refuse to shoot unless there is loud music to cover up the noise. While the cousins discuss where Joey's heart is located, Nadja searches for a Johnny Mathis record album to play, and will not accept any substitute. Finally, one of the cousins fires a shot into Joey's chest. With the job done, Rosalie sobs, and the others celebrate over drinks in the kitchen. Realizing the finality of Joey's death, Rosalie prays to God to bring her husband and the father of her children back to life. Suddenly, Joey appears behind her, muttering that a firecracker awakened him. With blood on the back of his head and a large bloodstain on the front and back of his shirt from the through-and-through gunshot wound, the groggy Joey introduces himself to the bewildered Harlan and Marlon. Devo pays the would-be killers only $200 because they botched the job, and sends them home.

    Sometime later that same night at police headquarters, a recently arrested man (John Billingsley) bargains for better jail conditions by offering information about a murder for hire that he overheard. He tells Lt. Schooner that two cousins, Harlan and Marlon, were buying drinks at a bar and bragging they had been paid $5,000 to kill Joey Boca. Lt. Schooner and his partner Detective Carlos Wiley (Jack Kehler) go to the Boca house and, over the objections of Rosalie and Nadja, into Joey's bedroom. Seeing Joey's gunshot wounds, they telephone for an ambulance. Nadja explains that they found Joey in the yard and put him in bed, and Rosalie speculates that since Joey is Italian, he was the victim of a mob hit. The police arrest everyone.

    Harlan and Marlon claim that Devo fired the first shot. Rosalie and her mother each confess to shooting Joey and proclaim Devo's innocence. Devo hints at firing a shot, but does not speak because his lawyer (director Lawrence Kasdan) is present. Lacey, Joey's amorous tenant, visits him in the hospital, hoping to be his main girl friend now that Rosalie is in jail, but Joey insists that from now on he will take his marriage vows seriously. When Joey's Italian mother (Miriam Margolyes) visits, she alternately hugs her boy and slaps him for being unfaithful.

    After his release from the hospital, he bails everyone out of jail, including Harlan and Marlon. When Lt. Schooner wonders if he is freeing Rosalie so that he can kill her, Joey exclaims that he is more in love now than ever before. He admires how Rosalie became a maniac because of her jealous passion. Joey hugs Devo and regrets not listening to his admonitions about infidelity. When Joey kneels before Rosalie and offers to renew their marriage vows, she hits him, but realizes that he really loves her. Joey thanks Rosalie for giving him the sleeping pills, because doctors told him the barbiturates prevented him from bleeding to death. Devo asks Nadja what they should do if Joey returns to cheating. Nadja jokes that they will have to shoot him again.

See also

Taglines | Synopsis | Plot Keywords | Parents Guide

Contribute to This Page