We all have those movies that, like songs, remind us of a certain time, place, and/or person. Mystic Pizza is one of those films for me. It always makes me think of my freshman year in college, when my roommate and I were stuck in a dorm with horrible TV reception and no cable. We therefore ended up watching the handful of movies in our collection over and over (and over) again. Mystic Pizza was one of them, and though I knew the story by heart back in 1993, I’d forgotten most of the details by the time I watched it again last week. So it was nice to see the movie again from a whole new perspective.
Plot summary (with possible spoilers): The film focuses primarily on three young women in their late teens and early twenties who live and work in the town of Mystic, CT. We have Kat Arujo (played by Annabeth Gish), the brainy one of the bunch, who will be attending Yale in the winter in order to study astronomy. Next, we have her sister Daisy (Julia Roberts), who doesn’t have Kat’s brains, but certainly makes up for it in the looks department. Finally, we have Jojo (Lili Taylor), who is struggling with the question of whether or not she should marry her boyfriend.
The film follows each of these women as they go through a tough relationship that, as Roger Ebert writes in his review, helps them “[discover] what their standards for love are going to be.” Kat has an ill-advised affair with an older, married man (William R. Moses) that turns out as bad as can be expected; Daisy dates a spoiled rich kid (Adam Storke) who was basically just using her to get back at his family; and Jojo can’t figure out if she loves Bill (Vincent D’Onofrio) enough to marry him before having sex with him (yes, you read that right: she wants to have sex before marriage while he wants to save himself).
If it sounds like a basic coming-of-age story, it really is. But it never sinks to the stereotypes of the genre, which saves the film and makes it worth watching.
My Reaction: I loved Mystic Pizza when it first came out, but I wondered if I’d still feel the same way now that nearly 20 years have passed. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the movie had a certain timeless quality to it, despite the cars, clothes, and hair that serve to date the whole thing.
I thought Annabeth Gish was the highlight of the film, even though Julia Roberts obviously went on to become a superstar while Gish did not. She was fantastic as the wide-eyed, naive Kat who seems so mature, but really doesn’t know the first thing about real life. I identified with Kat the most — which is perhaps a result of having seen the movie so many times when I was Kat’s age.
I give Mystic Pizza 4 stars out of 5 because of all the positives I mentioned above. This is a film that still has meaning today, and while it may never be considered a classic, it’s definitely worth another look.