Married to the Mob

Oct 04, 2022
Web Exclusive

By Austin Trunick

​When the no-good, cheating husband of Long Island mob moll Angela De Marco (Michelle Pfeiffer) is found shot dead in the honeymoon suite of a gaudy theme motel, she seizes the opportunity to cut ties with her mafia family and make a new life for herself and her young son. It’s not so easy, though, because the Big Boss (Dean Stockwell) has a thing for her, and because the local FBI bureau assumes she was in with him on her husband’s murder. Both pursue her to a slummy New York City apartment, where she hustles to find a job and start all over again—unbeknownst to her that the handsome neighbor (Matthew Modine) that she’s fallen in love with is actually an undercover special agent planted there for her surveillance.

In an interview newly conducted for this release, screenwriters Barry Strugatz and Mark R. Burns concede that their premise for Married to the Mob could have been played as a straight drama, and they’re not wrong. Some of the most interesting elements of the film are the ones that were approached seriously. For example, the romance which arises between Angela and Agent Mike Downey, as each tries to conceal their secret for as long as possible, is quite tender amid the goofiness; likewise, Angela’s desire to save her son from a life of organized crime inspires real sympathy. Michelle Pfeiffer, underneath that magnificent perm and many wacky fashion statements, gives a genuinely touching performance as she plays the movie’s straightwoman: a character who could conceivably be plucked from Married to the Mob and plugged into a sober mob drama with only a few adjustments. Here, though, Jonathan Demme surrounds her almost exclusively with madcap characters and broad comedy. Even Modine’s Mike Downey character, whom she shares the most screen time with, is dopey and sweet but otherwise a conduit for visual gags.

Dean Stockwell received an Academy Award nomination for his role Tony “The Tiger” Russo, the lusty Mafioso who can’t take ‘no’ for an answer. He’s cool, confident, and dangerous—as Dennis Hopper described his character in Blue Velvet, “real fuckin’ smooth”—except when he’s at home with his wife Connie, played by Mercedes Ruehl. She’s the unpredictable dynamo of this movie. In her own interview for this disc, Ruehl reflects on the hesitation she felt about auditioning for the part, and her concern that she’d be asked to play a caricature. Demme bit on her pitch to play Connie as a real woman, although that didn’t prevent her from occasionally leaping over the line which she drew in the sand. She inhabits such a massive range as this mafia matron, from the bullish, battle-axe housewife stereotype of a ‘60s Playboy cartoon all the way to a very sympathetic and fragile woman who’s scared she’s losing her husband. These swings happen fast and are perhaps emblematic of how the film straddles comedy and drama as a whole, but Ruehl rules the screen whenever she steps onto it and in whichever version of her character you get.

Married to the Mob comes to Blu-ray in a 2K restoration via Fun City Editions, who’ve packed it with some very nice supplements. Alongside the aforementioned interviews with the co-writers and Ruehl, there’s another on-camera piece with Matthew Modine, who provides some insight into how Demme directed his performance and pushed him to take the comedy a little further than he’d normally be comfortable with. Danielle Henderson and Millie De Chirico (of the I Saw What You Did podcast) provide a feature-length commentary, with fellow critics Jourdain Searles and Margaret Barton-Fumo contributing essays to the booklet. (The latter focuses on the movie’s soundtrack and how Demme curated the music in his films, which helps trace lines from Married to the Mob to several of his bigger works.) Even if it’s not one of your favorite Demme features, Fun City’s Married to the Mob release does a nice job of framing it within the context of his career—and the film’s eclectic soundtrack and bright colors are well-served by the release’s excellent restoration.



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