Every day, Watch This offers staff recommendations inspired by a new movie coming out that week. This week: Just in time for The Family, starring Robert De Niro as a mobster who enters the Witness Protection Program with his wife and kids, we’re recommending five tales of crime and kinship.
Married To The Mob (1988)
The gags are as broad as the outfits are tacky, but Jonathan Demme nonetheless wrings graceful comedy out of uneven material in Married To The Mob. At the center of his maelstrom is Michelle Pfeiffer, sporting a giant head of frizzy hair and decked out in garish clothes—all shoulder pads and leopard prints—that somehow manage to enhance her beauty. The actress is a zany delight throughout this boisterous tale, in which her domestic life with Alec Baldwin’s cocky mob hit man is upended when Baldwin is killed for sleeping with the boss’ mistress (Nancy Travis). When said kingpin Dean Stockwell subsequently comes knocking on Pfeiffer’s door looking for some nookie, she flees from her Long Island home to a dump in Manhattan’s Lower East Side—where, aside from being pursued by Stockwell, she’s harassed by his possessive wife (Mercedes Ruehl), as well as charmed by an FBI agent (Matthew Modine), whom she doesn’t realize is spying on her every move as part of a sting operation targeting the syndicate.
With multiple moving parts all spinning in increasingly anarchic ways, Married To The Mob is a work of witty anarchy, though that spirit is somewhat muted by a few too many recurring bits—especially those involving Ruehl’s over-the-top jealousy and fury—that feel stale from the get-go. Nonetheless, Demme’s direction is light, fleet, and jovial, aided in large part by cinematography (courtesy of longtime collaborator Tak Fujimoto) that lavishes both love and good-natured ridicule on the trashy accoutrements of his milieu. While a bland, boyish Modine is unfit for the part of the loose-limbed Romeo, Pfeiffer remains an enchantingly goofy and alluring lead. She keeps the film from spiraling into chaos through a combination of grace, charm, and the type of moxie that defined the greatest of screwball comedians, never more so than in a late POV shot in which, while winding up to punch Ruehl, she winningly sticks out her tongue before delivering the knockout blow.