Movie Review: “Miami Rhapsody” Starring Sarah Jessica Parker
“Miami Rhapsody” was released in January 27, 1995. The film’s domestic box office gross was $5,221,281.
Have you ever noticed that Neil Simon plays tend to read a lot like Woody Allen movies, which in turn sound rather similar to Alan Alda doing Hawkeye Pierce on M*A*S*H? There is more cleverness per square inch in the dialogue than you’ll likely find in an entire season of Friends. It’s so condensed in creativity—this New Yorky Jewish humor—that you could cut it with a knife. However, the cadence in which it is delivered can become a little monotonous, if left unchecked—the inflections, the pauses, the asides all so unerringly consistent that once it steps over the line, it descends into mere shtick. All this rhythmic wit can become downright distracting, as well, as you attempt to make sense of its rapid fire delivery and to endure its smug, self-conscious cuteness while following a complex plotline. And if you hear it long enough, you’ll start talking that way, too.
Such was my experience with this 1995 romantic sex comedy by writer/director David Frankel (who would go on to direct several episodes of Sex and the City from 2001-2003, and The Devil Wears Prada in 2006). In this, his big screen directorial debut, he offers a not-so-subtle tip-of-the-hat to Woody Allen, appropriating everything from this afore-described writing style (fired up a notch on the shtickometer) to his use of monologues, right up to Allen’s former love herself, Mia Farrow. After a while, the comparisons are so numerous, it begins to beg the question: at what point does imitation stop being flattery and start becoming litigable?
Sarah Jessica Parker stars as Gwyn Marcus, a young Jewish copy writer for a Miami ad agency who becomes forced to question her core beliefs about marriage and monogamy. After receiving a proposal (“Gwyn…I was thinking maybe you would marry me.”) from her zoologist boyfriend, Matt (Gil Bellows, Ally McBeal), she discovers that her friends, parents, and siblings are all cheating on their spouses: Gwyn’s mother, Nina (Farrow) is making time on the side with her ailing mother’s male nurse (Antonio Banderas); her father, Vic (Paul Mazurksy, Sopranos, Curb Your Enthusiasm) is bedding his travel agent, Zelda (Kelly Bishop); her newlywed sister, Leslie (Carla Gugino) is having a dalliance with an old high school beau, while her brother, Jordan (Kevin Pollak) is busy stepping out behind his very pregnant wife’s back to have a romp in the hay with a sexy model played by Naomi Campbell. Keeping track of all these characters and who they’re sleeping with is a sizable task, leading one to wonder if the point could possibly have been driven home just as easily with less examples. As the events progress, some drift away from their marriages, some drift back into them again, and, to its credit, the film is able to draw its conclusions in the end without succumbing to an excess of moralizing, and patronizing Mike Brady aphorisms.
As for the acting, Sarah Jessica Parker is a natural in this genre, this film an obvious prelude to her subsequent work in Sex and the City; Mia Farrow hits all the right notes, though her character misses that elegant, sophisticated quality so common to much of her past work (Rosemary‘s Baby, The Great Gatsby). Paul Mazursky comes across more as a mobster than an affluent professional dad, though I suppose the concepts aren’t mutually exclusive. While Antonio Banderas has the suave, Latin lover thing down pat, he mugs a little too much for the camera, trying too hard to play the comedy, with an excess of quirky head and eye movements. Likewise, Gil Bellows exploits his winning smile and puppy dog eyes to the point that his credibility starts to suffer, especially in moments that would seemingly require more introspective reactions.
In this whirlwind of characters and fast-paced dialogue, Miami unfortunately slips by mostly in a tropical blur, with a few notable exceptions: there are a few nice skyline shots, a couple of good scenes on Ocean Drive, with a masterful shot of the Colony Hotel; Naomi Campbell poses at a fashion shoot on the beach, the water a dazzling turquoise behind her. Unfortunately, however, most of the remaining scenes could’ve just as easily been assembled on a soundstage in Los Angeles (and probably were), demonstrating the pitfall of dialogue-heavy films: the visual element so distinctive and crucial to filmatic storytelling takes on a lesser role, weakening the overall effect.
The city is celebrated in word, nonetheless, if not in an abundance of recognizable visuals. As Parker’s character optimistically reflects in the end:
“I guess I look at marriage sort of the same way I look at Miami. It’s hot, and it’s stormy, and occasionally a little dangerous, but if it’s really so awful, then why is there still so much traffic?”
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