Pairing Woody Allen and Bette Midler in a contemporary comedy sounded like a good idea. Having someone other than Allen do the script sounded like another good idea. Unfortunately, these ideas are good only for about 30 minutes. From there on, "Scenes From a Mall" fizzles and finally dies.
You might think from the title that the new film was written by Allen. Allen, for the last 10 years or so, has been imitating &L; Swedish director Ingmar Bergman, whose films include "Scenes From a Marriage."
Allen, however, had nothing to do with the script. This is the first time since the 1976 "The Front" that Allen has participated in a film only as an actor. In this instance, Paul Mazursky directed and co-authored the script with Roger L. Simon. This time, let them take the blame.
The film begins well. Allen and Midler play a suburban Los Angeles couple who send their two teen-age children off for a ski weekend, then head for the bedroom where their sex play is interrupted by a series of phone calls.
This done, they head for the Beverly Center where Nick (Allen), for reasons that would puzzle a truckload of psychiatrists, tells Deborah (Midler) that he has had an affair, one he has only recently ended. To be truthful, he says, there were more, but one was only a one-night stand.
Naturally, Deborah, a psychologist who has written a best-selling book on marriage, is enraged. Then, after she tells her husband that the marriage is finished, confesses to him that she, too, has had an affair.
This time, Nick is enraged. The marriage, he says, is really off.
By this time, so is the movie because it really has no place to go. These two are either going to forgive and attempt to forget, or they are going to end the marriage, which, after all the evidence is in, sounds like a terrific solution.
"Scenes From a Mall" is one more jaded Hollywood view of contemporary marriage. The script has Nick say that 75 percent of married men cheat on their wives. Who knows? All we do know is that the situation makes for a limited number of laughs, then, because there is no real solution to the problem, the film simply ends, leaving the conclusion to the spectator. Will these two people renew their vows of fidelity or will they go their separate ways? Who cares?
Bill Irwin is in the cast. Irwin, a clown-mime who once appeared at Center Stage, is misused in the film. Mazursky has him walk through the mall in mime costume. This gives Nick an opportunity to say he hates mimes, but that's about it with Irwin, whose talent is apparently hard to film. He is not, however, alone. "Scenes From a Mall" squanders a lot of talent.
The new film opens here today.
"Scenes From a Mall" * Woody Allen and Bette Midler are marital partners who confess their infidelities as they journey through a mall.
CAST: Bette Midler, Woody Allen, Bill Irwin, Paul Mazursky
DIRECTOR: Paul Mazursky
RATING: R (language, sex)
( RUNNING TIME: 88 minutes