Movie Review By Heather Clisby
The first face we see in the new film, "Drowning Mona" is the scowling mug of the title character, Mona Dearly. Played by one of the great grump actresses of our day, Bette Midler, Mona and her poison demeanor soon discover that the brakes on her son's Yugo are not in full working order (everyone in this film has a Yugo but that's another story.) Mona Dearly then drives off a cliff and into the river. No more Mona Dearly.
Directed by Nick Gomez, this little film is full of Jerry Springish characters residing in Verplank, New York - a small, simple community experiencing a sudden sharp rise in suspicious deaths. Danny DeVito is Wyatt Rash, the quiet, thoughtful, musical theater-loving Chief of Police, who isn't quite satisfied that Mona's demise was an accident. Suspect number one is Bobby Calzone, played by Casey Affleck, the sweet, polite pushover who keeps a landscaping business with Mona Dearly's son, Jeff, and is engaged to marry Chief Rash's daughter, Ellen.
Then there's Phil Dearly, Mona's battered husband, played by William Fichtner, who spent more time at the business end of Mona's bitterness than anyone. Of course, there's Rone, the 33-year-old waitress, played with aplomb by Jamie Lee Curtis, who is sleeping with Phil, and a few others. Both are suspects and both suspect everyone else. The one-handed son, Jeff, played by Marcus Thomas, is also a suspect, even though he's dumber than dirt. The Dearly family is, in fact, twisted and shrinking fast.
This is a small film bursting with funky characters that may or may not have murdered another bizarre personality. Basically, they all had a right to; as one apathetic deputy put it, "Who cares who did it? Ding-dong, the witch is dead." Everyone from Lucinda, the lesbian car mechanic, to Clarence, the unstable fisherman who sees everything, to Cubby, the perverted mortician, played by Saturday Night Live's Will Farrell - this film is driven entirely by the bad taste and poor judgement of its characters - with plain, soft-spoken Bobby in the center.
Even his wife, Ellen, played with great comic timing by Neve Campbell, is so on as a stressed out bride-to-be, she's funny even painting her fingernails. Campbell should really take on more roles in comedy - what with the serious shortage of capable, young comedic actresses out there.
"Drowning Mona" is one of those great escapist matinee flicks that have the house laughing. This will not win any Oscars but if you liked "Ruthless People" (also starring Midler & DeVito), this is similar fare. It scores high in the originality department - if murder can be funny and quaint, "Drowning Mona" floats.
© 2000 - Heather Clisby - Air Date: 5/8/00
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