After 16 years of marriage, the Fifers are drifting around a shopping mall, when Nick Fifer confesses he has had affairs. Deborah Fifer immediately goes spare, demanding a divorce, and as they discuss the division of their spoils, it transpires she too as been unfaithful.
One of the few times Woody Allen stepped out of his own universe, to merely star in another filmmaker’s movie, it’s little wonder he tends to keep to his own devices, given how bland and unfunny this study of a fragmenting marriage turns out. Actually, director Paul Mazursky seems to be almost parodying Allen’s tight and witty relationship dramedies, with this pointed tale of smug, blathering couple, drifting zombie-like around that LA dead zone The Beverly Centre, or as Nick puts it in sub-Allenesque terms, “Kafka in California.”
Allen’s Nick is everything he has striven against, a sports lawyer layered in money, with an ever-trilling beeper and a ponytail for Manhattan’s sake! And the comedian looks about as comfortable in the character, as he would playing The Terminator. Better Midler, erroneously thinking she was stepping up to some prize piece of relationship satire, contains the volume, but seems at a loss with the film’s lack of bite.
Mazursky is not quite sure what he’s after. A study of a marriage encountering rough water while still anchored to a habit that is hard to break? Or is he smirking at modern Angelino foibles, all their consumerist shallowness.? Both and neither is the answer. His empty film just lollops along beside this irritable, whingeing couple, its messages as stale as its comedy.
Ultimately, Scenes From A Mall is low on true insight and could do with more witty zingers among the gags. Watching other people shop, after all, is not that much fun.