Playing Mona Lisa

"Good"

Playing Mona Lisa Review


Claire Goldstein is all giddy and aglow because last night her wonderful, wonderful boyfriend asked for her hand in marriage. Unfortunately it's morning now, he's sober, and not only has be blacked out popping the question, but he's also started thinking maybe they shouldn't see each other anymore.

That's only the beginning of Claire's problems in "Playing Mona Lisa," a breakup recovery screwball comedy that in many marvelous ways invokes the spirit of Woody Allen -- if Woody Allen were a comely, quizzical, capriciously miserable 23-year-old redhead from San Francisco.

Trying to withdraw from the world by staying in bed and eating Ho-Hos by the boxful, poor Claire (the comically gifted Alicia Witt) can't even wallow in self-pity to her satisfaction because her busybody family keeps showing up to chicken-soup her heart with useless anecdotes and unsolicited advice.

Then comes the earthquake that gets her building condemned, forcing her to move back in with her flaky folks (Marlo Thomas and Elliott Gould) and bear bitter witness to her blissful sister's wedding preparations.

Is it any wonder then that she meets the cutest guy she's ever seen while running down the street crying, sporting bed hair, streaked mascara and penguin slippers? Arrgh!

"Playing Mona Lisa" is the kind of irony-amplified comedy that makes your cheeks hurt, both from laughing out loud and from smiling an I've-been-there smile. It's filled with crafty, personified little chuckles that come from every corner of the deftly comical screenplay -- and from every character brought to life by the picture's sublime cast.

Witt finds just the right humorous tone in Claire's heartbroken daze -- a condition her misery-relishing video clerk pal Arthur (sardonic Johnny Galecki) is more than happy to nourish. "Welcome to the land of the perpetually depressed," he moans. "I'll be your tour guide."

Brooke Langton ("The Replacements") is magnetically vivacious and flirtatious as Sabrina, a girlfriend ready to take Claire partying and teach her the secret to getting attention from men: Make eye contact with a sly smile that says you don't care. (Sabrina's name for this technique is where the title comes from, and it's a rather forced gimmick the movie could have done without.)

As Claire's parents, Thomas and Gould are a great scene-stealing duo who abscond with almost a whole reel of the movie with a scene in which they accidentally get stoned off of tainted paté at their elder daughter's wedding rehearsal.

Another performance of note: Harvey Fierstein gets to be both funny and sage as Claire's mentor at the conservatory of music. She's a talented, if insecure, concert pianist -- and so is Witt in real life, so the concert scenes add to the film an additional, curious layer of entertainment value.

Jewish comedy stereotypes are used to excess in "Mona Lisa," although first-time director Matthew Huffman encourages his actors to develop the cliché supporting characters beyond their function in the story. He sometimes lets the movie's slapstick elements get away from him too, giving the picture something of an uneven finish. But this kind of idiosyncratic comedy is never perfect, and the kind of sharp, witty writing he has to work with here can make up for a lot.

Marni Freedman and Carlos de los Rios adapted the screenplay from Freedman's stage production, "Two Goldsteins On Acid" (a much better title that alludes to the aforementioned scene with the tripping parents). Their dialogue is not only delightfully quotable, but their plot structure is so cagey that when Claire's bad luck looks to reach epidemic proportions, well-aimed colliding coincidences conspire to accelerate the awkward comedy even more -- adding a couple big, funny twists to what was already a entertaining movie through and through.



Playing Mona Lisa

Facts and Figures

Run time: 97 mins

In Theaters: Monday 1st May 2000

Budget: $3M

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 64%
Fresh: 9 Rotten: 5

IMDB: 6.2 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Matthew Huffman

Starring: as Claire Goldstein, as Sabrina, as Arthur, as Eddie, Carl, and Ben, as Sheila Goldstein, as Bernie Goldstein, as Bennett

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Colossal Movie Review

Colossal Movie Review

It's rare to find a movie that so defiantly refuses to be put into a...

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword Movie Review

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword Movie Review

It's unlikely that Guy Ritchie could make a boring movie if he wanted to. This...

Snatched Movie Review

Snatched Movie Review

It doesn't really matter that the script for this lively action-comedy is paper thin: teaming...

Jawbone Movie Review

Jawbone Movie Review

Boxing movies aren't usually this thoughtful. Sure, there are plenty of punchy moments in the...

Whisky Galore! Movie Review

Whisky Galore! Movie Review

Scottish filmmaker Gillies MacKinnon (Hideous Kinky) remakes the 1949 Ealing comedy classic, although it's difficult...

Alien: Covenant Movie Review

Alien: Covenant Movie Review

Master filmmaker Ridley Scott is back to continue the story 10 years after the events...

The Journey (2017) Movie Review

The Journey (2017) Movie Review

A fictionalised account of real events, this drama is reminiscent of Peter Morgan's work in...

Advertisement
Sleepless Movie Review

Sleepless Movie Review

In remaking the 2011 French thriller Sleepless Night, the filmmakers have dumbed down both the...

Unlocked Movie Review

Unlocked Movie Review

By injecting a steady sense of fun, this slick but mindless action thriller both holds...

Lady Macbeth Movie Review

Lady Macbeth Movie Review

A seriously impressive feature directing debut with a star-making central performance, this period British drama...

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Movie Review

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Movie Review

It was never going to be easy to match the impact of 2014's Guardians of...

The Promise Movie Review

The Promise Movie Review

The director of Hotel Rwanda, Terry George, turns to another humanitarian horror: the systematic murder...

Their Finest Movie Review

Their Finest Movie Review

Skilfully written, directed and acted, this offbeat British period film tells a story that catches...

Unforgettable Movie Review

Unforgettable Movie Review

With heavy echoes of trashy thrillers like Fatal Attraction, this movie overcomes its painfully simplistic...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.