With her long blonde tresses constantly blowing in the wind - even when there is no wind - and her pure white outfits set off by her pale skin, barefoot Demi Moore is the perfect image of an innocent nymph as clairvoyant Marina in "The Butcher's Wife."
In fact, I can't remember a performance by Moore that I've found more appealing than this sweet, gentle character, completely without guile, as is the film itself.Marina bases every decision in her life on what she sees and feels, and though it is obvious to the audience early on that her impulsive decisions are going to get her in trouble, it's hard to argue with the logic of the heart.
As the film opens, Marina spots a "twin-tailed comet" in the sky. The next day she comes across a wedding band while cutting open a fish. She is sure both omens are signs that her "split-apart," meaning her true love, is on his way.
So, when vacationing Leo Lemke (George Dzundza), a lumpy butcher from New York, suddenly appears in a rowboat on the shore, she's sure he's the guy. She immediately jumps in his boat and begins smothering him with kisses.
Two days later, they are married, and Marina accompanies Leo to his Greenwich Village butcher shop, where she begins a series of encounters with artistic eccentrics, whom she unabashedly counsels in the ways of love. They include a shy church choir leader (Mary Steenburgen), a lonely lesbian merchant (Frances McDormand), a soap opera actress (Margaret Colin), a young delinquent artist (Max Perlich) and a host of others.
The trouble begins when psychiatrist Alex Tremor (Jeff Daniels), who practices across the street, begins to notice that his patients are starting to feel good about themselves. In fact, they feel so good they are abandoning therapy.
Worse, as Alex confronts Marina he begins to feel an attraction for her - and it becomes apparent that she feels the same for him.
Did Marina misinterpret the signs? Was she perhaps a bit too impulsive? Or, as Alex suggests, is she simply imagining all of this?
These questions are addressed only superficially, of course, since "The Butcher's Wife" is not interested in exploring anything serious. This is first and foremost a light romantic comedy - featherweight, in fact. And, truth be told, first-time screenwriters Ezra Litwik & Marorie Schwartz have not even adequately explored all the comic possibilities here, much less more serious ones.
But they, along with director Terry Hughes (a stage and TV director whose film debut this is) are content with a feel-good movie.
And there's nothing wrong with that. Especially when the result is as satisfying a souffle as this one.
The characters here are very well-cast, with Steenburgen and Dzundza particular standouts (Steenburgen also reveals a very nice, throaty singing voice on some old blues standards), and Daniels is at his most relaxed.
But it is Moore who makes the movie a success. Her central performance is the glue that holds it all together, and if she had been too precocious or silly, it could easily have fallen apart. Instead, she delivers just the right mix of naivete, innocence and a simple lust for life that make the character - and the film - a minor joy.
"The Butcher's Wife" is rated a soft PG-13 for a few profanities and some vulgar comments.