Friday, March 5, 2021


 by Erika Bromley and Patrick Bromley

Celebrating 1988 Week with movies we own that we haven’t seen!

Bue my bue! Happy 1988 week! What a great year for movies. As is our rule for this semi-(barely) regular column, we chose to watch stuff we own but one or both of us have never seen from the year we’re celebrating as part of #FThisMovieFest. What movie did you choose?

Erika: Thanks to a 1988 rabbit hole I went down inspired by Adam Riske sending us 1988-related YouTube videos, I came across a trailer for Married to the Mob. I was on a lunch break at work and was only half listening to the videos playing, but “Mambo Italiano” caught my attention as it played in the trailer. I grew up only really knowing my Italian side of the family, and so this song feels like it’s in my blood. Maybe five seconds of the trailer in, I realized that I’d never seen this Jonathan Demme classic and felt a rush of regret and surge of excitement because, as they say, it’s never too late to watch a movie from any time! (Do they say that? Is this a thing?) I’m so glad we chose this for this (long-on-pandemic-hold) column -- this movie is incredibly charming, sweet, and funny. Also, Michelle Pfieffer.

You’d seen it before but not in a long time. How did it hold up for you, P?
Patrick: I’ve been a big fan of Married to the Mob for a long time. The three-movie run of Something Wild, this one, and Silence of the Lambs is my favorite period in Jonathan Demme’s incredible career. Silence of the Lambs is probably his masterpiece, but I find myself returning to his late ‘80s comedies more often because of how colorful and funky they are. Married to the Mob is so full of life and energy and music. It’s just so fun. In the hands of another filmmaker, it would just be a bunch of broad Italian stereotypes -- Mickey Blue Eyes for the ‘80s. Demme sees those stereotypes and raises them to the level of cartoon and the movie is better for it.

You already mentioned Michelle Pfeiffer, and this is probably my favorite non-Catwoman performance of hers. But one of my favorite things about Married to the Mob -- and all Jonathan Demme movies, really -- is just how deep the bench of characters and actors goes. Every little part is populated by someone you’re happy to see show up, whether it’s Alec Baldwin as Pfeiffer’s no-good husband or Chris Isaak as hitman working a drive-thru window dressed as a clown. Mercedes Ruehl crushes it as Dean Stockwell’s jealous wife and has all my favorite line deliveries (“I’m gonna be such a good wife to you!!”). This movie even has my favorite Matthew Modine performance. Matthew Modine! He’s never been this loose and goofy and great. Did you have a favorite character or performance? And did you love the movie because almost everyone is Italian in it?

Erika: Mangia! Mangia! Bella Bambina!

Patrick: Pizza. Gabba goo.

Erika: I can’t help it. I love all the Italian stuff -- even the broad stereotypes. For more than half of my life, I was surrounded by strong Italian-American traditions: music, food, loud talking, more loud talking, and lots of LOVE. Even a glimmer of this in any movie automatically brings me to a place of familiarity and joy. But this movie checks a few other boxes for me, too: New York, humor, romance… and let me add that Matthew Modine has never been one of those boxes to check for me. Even his first appearance in this film had me unfairly worried that he was going to bore me. Boy was I wrong. Stunad!
The plot is simplistic in a lot of ways, right? But it doesn’t matter, because it’s all just so charming. And we genuinely root for Michelle Pfieffer’s character. (We also root for all the incredible '80s hairstyles, because, how can you not? They defy gravity, common sense, practicality -- what’s not to love?) Some of the scenes in her New York apartment are heart-breaking; I wanted happiness for her and her son. We’ve been watching a lot of 1988 (and '80s in general) films lately, and they really spotlight many of the issues that families -- and specifically women -- struggled with as women were gaining independence with careers but…without living wages. And, of course, all the issues surrounding the fallout from divorce. Films really do serve as time capsules.

By the time the story brings us from New York to Florida, it’s wildly silly but the performances are so earnest and funny that none of it matters.

Patrick: It does follow the rules of farce, wherein it climaxes with a bunch of different people colliding in a hotel room as the result of several misunderstandings. But I agree that the movie isn’t so much about plot as it is about characters, locations, color, stuff in the margins -- that’s what’s great about Jonathan Demme’s work. Can you believe Michelle Pfeiffer had this, Tequila Sunrise, AND Dangerous Liasons all in the same year? I feel like this was the year she officially became a Hollywood movie star, carrying movies instead of just having supporting roles. Not counting Grease 2, of course.

Erika: Of course!! Do you think this is the year young future singer-songwriters started writing lyrics about her too?

Patrick: My pick was for a Francis Ford Coppola movie I had never seen: Tucker: The Man and His Dream. I have to admit that the title alone kept me away from the movie for many years, but when Lionsgate put the Blu-ray out a while back, Amazon was selling it for dirt cheap and we picked it up. 1988 Week was the perfect excuse to finally see what wound up being a very good movie -- one I shouldn’t have slept on for 30 years. Bue, what did you think of Tucker (which is all I will be calling it from here on out)?
Erika: I’m not surprised that we have this in common, but the name also kept me away. Why is that? Too long? Too corny? I know we’ve watched and often loved other titles that feature the colon. Are there any movie titles with the semi-colon? That would actually PULL ME IN!

I’m not sure it was the colon. I think it was something about the phrase “A Man and His Dream,” which sounds simultaneously vague and corny. As a kid, I could see it putting me off. As an adult, I could go for corny.

Erika: Especially now - during a pandemic and a time when social media reactions to movies - whether I agree with them or not - are so very LOUD. There’s so much NOISE. A corny little uplifting movie like this feels like the perfect salve. It was escapism that also had me googling automobile-related history after it ended. Who am I?

I can’t believe how much I enjoyed this movie. Jeff Bridges surely had a lot to do with that. His embodiment of the title role showed Tucker to be affable and sweet, warm and genuine. I believed every beat of his performance. He plays Tucker, a man with a dream. I don’t know if you knew that.

And, did I say uplifting? The sweet family moments, the laughter, the sincerity of this man’s hopes and dreams -- they all worked to fill me with joy while watching. But I also was raging by the end and rallying to fight against the negative effects of capitalism... I’m jumping ahead. But this movie exists simultaneously as a lovely story about an enthusiastic inventor and creator who wants to do well AND a rage-inducing example of what happens when big money, corrupt men, and bad journalism join forces.

Patrick: It’s almost like things haven’t changed very much.

Erika: I know I started to yell at our TV, “How many movies have to be made to show us? Why are we still dealing with these things? Why can’t we learn?”
Patrick: I really loved that Coppola’s filmmaking matched the upbeat eccentricity of the Jeff Bridges performance. The movie feels super buzzy and alive. It’s so entertaining above all else. I forgot that movies could just try to entertain without having to also launch an IP or tie in an extended universe. It’s a good story, well told. We can’t ask for much more than that from our movies, right?

Erika: All of our 1988 re-watches and first-time watches this week have made me long for the past. I know we can’t live there, but I am so glad that movies make it easy to visit. I’m curious to know if others missed this movie as well. If you are reading and don’t remember Tucker: A Man and His Dream, I think it is worth your time!

Patrick: It absolutely is. 1988 was such a good year for movies that lesser known but still terrific movies like Married to the Mob and Tucker run the risk of falling through the cracks. I’m glad we can shine a spotlight on them this week. Thanks for watching these and writing about them with me, Bue! I miss Shelf Life.

Erika: Bada bing! We’re back, Baby! (Probably not. It might be months. Time is a construct, etc.) I look forward to our next set of discoveries!


  1. So Demme begins “Something Wild” in NY and ends it in NY. “Married to the Mob” begins in NY and concludes in Miami. Then he produces a film called “Miami Blues”.
    “Silence of the Lambs” concludes in Philadelphia and then Demme makes “Philadelphia”.
    This strange continuity always delighted me.

  2. Matthew Modine posing as a member of a doo-wop group is one of the best sight gags in cinema history. (Is sight gag the correct term?)