I Can’t Believe I Just Watched This!: “Mystic Pizza”

Thanks to Meghan-Annette for suggesting this film for “I Can’t Believe I Just Watched This!”

I have a confession to make: I’ve never watched “Mystic Pizza” before now. It’s one of those girl things I hadn’t partaken in like manicures with your BFF or synchronized periods. My main point of reference for this movie was an episode of “30 Rock” where Jenna Maroney is in “Mystic Pizza: The Musical.” I knew Julia Roberts was in it and there was some pizza involved, but that was about it. To be honest, for the longest time I thought it was a movie about an interstellar pizzeria, which would be a pretty great movie.

“Mystic Pizza” is about three friends–Kat Arujo (Annabeth Gish), Daisy Arujo (Julia Roberts) and Jojo Barbosa (Lili Taylor)–who work at Mystic Pizza in the small town of Mystic, Connecticut. The film follows the three of them as they navigate romance and balance it with tensions arising between them, their lovers, family and friends. Kat babysits for Tim (William R. Moses), a married older man she finds herself falling for before heading off to Yale to become an astronomer. Daisy meets Charles Gordon Windsor, Jr. at a bar and they hit it off instantly, but the class difference could pose a problem. Meanwhile, Jojo has been dating Bill (Vincent D’Onofrio? Vincent D’Onofrio.) for a while and wants to have sex with him, but Bill wants to get married before they have sex.

It’s clear to me having watched this movie why it’s kind of a beloved film from the ’80s. It’s a nice cozy film about three young women on the verge of really starting their lives, fighting over relationships and being there to console each other when things go wrong and they feel betrayed. It’s the type of movie focusing on things many women have been through and seems like the type of movie many women would watch as a double feature with “Dirty Dancing”*.

The thing about “Mystic Pizza” is it’s a nice movie that feels like comfort food, but there’s nothing stunning or horrible about the film. The only thing I can fault the film for is that I only really care for Daisy, because Kat’s affair with Tim is doomed from the start and Jojo has serious boundary issues. Yes, it is kind of dickish that Bill renamed the fishing boat he works on the Nympho after you, but you are sex crazed and really need a good lesson on consent because Bill really doesn’t want to have sex, so stop it. Everything in the scene where Bill is telling Jojo he doesn’t want to have sex, but she has his pants pulled down around his ankles is so horribly gross and it’s deeply unfortunate the scene is played for laughs, but unfortunately this is the least harmful sexual assault to occur in any film for “I Can’t Believe I Just Watched This!”

The film features a terrific, nuanced performance from Julia Roberts that feels like a star-in-the-making performance, as well as a restrained performance from Vincent D’Onofrio. The movie also tackles class issues, which largely works well except in a scene where the audience is clobbered by the concept when Daisy has dinner with Charles’ family. The movie excels for being a movie about characters and exploring their problems instead of making it a problem about concepts, which some filmmakers and writers could do since it’s largely about working-class Portuguese-Americans.

Although “Mystic Pizza” isn’t a movie I would normally watch, it’s a movie that is well-made and one I can see many people being able to watch over and over. In the realm of “I Can’t Believe I Just Watched This!” it’s certainly the best film I’ve watched so far, it’s just not a film I can enthusiastically recommend. But it would at least be a good movie to curl up on the couch with a friend and watch.

*I don’t know why people treat “Dirty Dancing” as a feel-good movie. It’s kind of sad and a huge plot point is someone needing an abortion. But Jerry Orbach is there and I remember that being a big draw for me when I was a kid.

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