Now for a new favorite that I’ve already watched twice. “The Butcher’s Wife” (1991), is an off-beat, beautifully visual film starring Demi Moore, Jeff Daniels, Mary Steenburgen, and George Dzundza.
Because of signs and dreams and portents, a clairvoyant North Carolina island girl, Marina (Demi Moore), marries New York butcher, Leo Lemke (Dzundza). It was Lemke’s fishing vacation which landed him on the island, but he was the fish the beautiful blonde, barefoot nymph caught in her wide-eyed net. They marry within a day and are back in New York at the shop in three, ready to settle down to work and get to know each other.
Lemke is no young woman’s idea of a leading man, though he is sweet and tries to be understanding. It’s just that with Marina he is badly out of his depth. But she has seen in the signs that this is the man who was destined to be her ideal mate, using the terminology of Plato, he is her “split-apart” — two people who were once one, but torn apart. It’s doesn’t take long for her to figure out she’s made a mistake. Though she’s spot on for “knowing” what’s coming up in the lives of other people, her weakness is in “seeing” her own future and interpreting it accurately.
Locals in the quaint little neighborhood are amazed and enthralled by her — everyone but psychotherapist Dr. Alex Tremor (Jeff Daniels), who lives and works across the street. He sees her as meddling in his patients’s lives and emotions where she has no business being. Yet, people are encouraged by her to follow their dreams, like Stella (Steenburgen), who directs the choir at church but secretly wants to sing the blues and wear beautiful clothes.
Of course, Marina’s signs and portents had led her to the right place. Just not the right man. And the misunderstandings and misinterpretations waltz us through a world that is at once funny and poignant. The New York neighborhood reminds us of idealistic days when kids were free to ride bikes, the sidewalks clean and without violence, and people knew each other.
The sets, the lighting, the costumes, lent a quality to the film that captured mood and personality. The background shots, from this one street of little shops, were all of famous New York landmarks, as if the neighborhood were encapsulated in a snow globe with “New York” stamped upon it.
Though Demi Moore received an “award” for worst actress, it was her portrayal of an other-worldly little sprite, open and honest and totally unsophisticated, that lent this movie its charm. Jeff Daniels plays a man desperate to cling to the status quo, but losing it more like a cute psycho than a psychotherapist who has it all together.
The mish-mash of psycho babble and bent philosophies are more the comedy element than words to live by. But all in all it was different and funny.