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Forget Paris

Rated PG-13, 101 min. Directed by Billy Crystal. Starring Billy Crystal, Debra Winger, Joe Mantegna, Cynthia Stevenson, Richard Masur, Julie Kavner, William Hickey, Robert Constanzo, John Spencer, Cathy Moriarty.

REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., May 19, 1995

Wave au revoir and then do like the movie says: Forget Paris. (On general principles, I hate titles that can obviously double as ready-made, critical, straight lines. But I'd hate myself even more if I stoically tried to rise above the opportunity.) Forget Paris is not a total bust: It does have some very funny scenes and moments (most notably, the sequence during which a pigeon, ludicrously, sticks to Debra Winger's face). And Billy Crystal can be a genuinely funny guy. But why does he insist on having all the marbles? Not simply a star, Crystal is now his own producer and writer, as well as his own leading man. This overreach led to Crystal's last misfire, the maudlin and mean-spirited Mr. Saturday Night. Clearly, Forget Paris is trying to regain some of the Crystal luster associated with films like When Harry Met Sally… and City Slickers. Through the years, he has carved himself something of a film niche as a spokesman for grown-up baby boomers. In fact, Crystal's entire career may be viewed as an example of the Peter Principle in action. After starting out as one of TV's first ongoing gay male characters in Soap, Crystal went on to do a mish-mash of lame comedy routines on Saturday Night Live and elsewhere. His best work in film has always been when he takes direction from others, in projects like Throw Momma From the Train and When Harry Met Sally…. And why couldn't he be happy with that Academy Awards gig? (He hosted the Oscars four times, and the Grammys three.) What's wrong with being a great host? Crystal's self-inflation factor is exactly what is wrong with Forget Paris: too much Crystal and not enough substance. The movie recounts the bumpy path of romance traveled by Mickey (Crystal) and Ellen (Winger). Their history is related in continuing segments by a slow-gathering ensemble of old friends of the couple. The better we get to know Mickey and Ellen, the less appealing the two steadily become. Following a whirlwind romance in which they play at being Americans in Paris, their marriage raises insoluble problems of incompatible temperaments and careers. Neither is there any “chemistry” or believable passion in the pairing of Crystal and Winger. This is only made more painful by the awareness that all the other assembled couples are infinitely more interesting than Mickey and Ellen. Pairing Richard Masur and Julie Kavner as a well-seasoned married couple is casting brilliance. Giving them very little to do is a crime. Ditto for John Spencer and Cathy Moriarty, who were given even less to work with. Only William Hickey emerges unscathed in his on-target portrayal of a just-this-side-of-senile father-in-law. Ever wonder what happens after the ellipses in When Harry Met Sally…? Forget Paris provides the answer in the form of When Mickey Met Ellen….
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