Directed by Martha Coolidge. Starring Geena Davis, Stephen Rea, James Gandolfini, Aida Turturro, Philip Bosco, Jenny O'Hara, Michael Rispoli. (1994, R, 107 min.)
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., March 4, 1994
Angie's having an identity crisis and it's not always pretty to watch. Despite starring the beautiful and hard-working Geena Davis, it has a kind of displaced feel, as if it isn't the movie it dreams of becoming. As Angie, the Italian-American homegirl from Bensonhurst, the intrinsically WASPy Davis is miscast. She did her homework, the accent is there, the neighborhood courses through her performance but somehow, the result rings false, like someone made up for Halloween who'll go back to being themselves tomorrow. It might be a different story were not the whole movie resting on Davis' shoulders. But as structured, her performance needs to carry the whole movie and… it simply doesn't. It's tempting to say that the problem began long ago, back when scriptwriter Todd Graff originally fashioned the story with Madonna in mind for the lead. With that image, Angie takes on a whole different look, a look that began long before the folks at Disney had a hand in Angie's production. The story of how and why Madonna is off the project is as tangled and thorny as any subject related to Madonna, but suffice to say that once upon a time, Angie had a different star, studio, director and who knows what else. Still, that only makes it more like a standard Hollywood movie, one that's gone through numerous permutations on its way toward its release date. Last time out, Coolidge directed Lost in Yonkers. Now she's merely moved neighborhoods and made Lost in Bensonhurst. It's as if some brain noticed her success a couple years ago with Rambling Rose and said, “Get her, she's good with female coming-of-age stories.” Clearly there are certain stylings that Coolidge brought to this project: the gynecological POV shots, the stalls in the women's restroom, the irreverent look at pregnancy. The heart of Angie is about motherhood -- about motherless children and the flight from parenting, about the mistakes we make out of misguided love and the redemption to be found in giving birth, about the desire to break free and the desire to be wrapped up in eternity. There are moments in Angie that make me want to throttle the screen and shout down its dreamy notions of romance and “natural womanhood.” Then it brings me up short with its depiction of fleeing moms and parents who do all the wrong things for all the right reasons. There's no one reaction I ultimately have with Angie and judging by the audience with whom I watched this movie, neither did they. They would roam back and forth between tsk-tsking the choices Angie makes and laughing heartily at her spirited humor and crying over her troubles and fears. But instead of this providing us with a well-rounded portrait of our heroine it leaves us with a yanked and jerky feel. It's like Angie's seams are showing but no one wants to remark on her flaws.