1993 Directed by Anthony Minghella. Starring Matt Dillon, Annabella Sciorra, Mary-Louise Parker, William Hurt.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Oct. 22, 1993
Minghella's previous film, the elegiac Truly, Madly, Deeply, was a bittersweet love story involving a ghost. Mr. Wonderful, on the other hand, is a ghost of a love story: shallow, fluffy, and prone to garish oversimplification. It tries to take a clear-eyed view of love lost and rediscovered, and falls short, very short, of the mark. Gus (Dillon) is a New York Con Ed electrician and recent divorcé who may or may not be in love with his new girl Rita (Parker). He's ready to move on with his life, but the alimony going to his ex, Lee (Sciorra), is holding him back. When the opportunity to buy into the reopening of a neighborhood bowling alley presents itself (it is, after all, a way for him to get out from under the city's grimy streets and off of those crimson Con Ed trucks), he finds himself short of the necessary cash and decides to find the perfect guy -- Mr. Wonderful -- for Lee to marry, effectively curtailing his alimony payments and solving all his woes in one fell swoop. This is the film's main conceit, and as such, it's not a bad one. The idea of the ex-husband trying to marry off his ex-wife to get around alimony is an idea seemingly loaded with possibilities and, for a while, the gag works. Unfortunately, director Minghella can't seem to decide whether to play up the comedy, the romance, or the melodrama, and the film ends up with a severe, painfully obvious identity crisis. Dillon and Sciorra carry the film, and you can tell it's a heavy load; even their combined skills fail to keep you any more than marginally interested in what's going on onscreen. Oddly, William Hurt is (mis)cast here as Lee's NYU professor, with whom she's having a hollow fling. The part has the feeling of something that occurred after the fact, and it's hard not to think that Hurt's character was added in a desperate attempt to spice things up. No such luck. As a sophomore slump, Minghella's effort is better than most: it's cute, and occasionally fun to watch, but not much more. And after the brilliant Truly, Madly, Deeply, it's really quite a letdown.