The Butcher's Wife

Romantic fantasy is a bitch to pull off; it needs to float like gossamer. The Butcher's Wife is barely airborne before it plummets like a punctured dirigible. Demi Moore — with blond tresses and a y'all drawl — stars as Marina, a clairvoyant who lives with her Grammy D'Arbo (Elizabeth Lawrence) on a picturesque island off the coast of North Carolina. Marina is given to spouting homespun philosophy, such as "My Grammy D'Arbo always said, 'Love, like clairvoyance, requires a leap of faith.'" Grammy said a mouthful.

The script, by unpromising newcomers Ezra Litwak and Marjorie Schwartz, hinges on Marina's belief that her dream lover will come from the sea because she's found a mullet fish with a wedding band in its belly. She's expecting an Adonis, but the first man ashore — a lost vacationer in a rowboat — is a fat, middle-aged butcher named Leo Lemke (George Dzundza). Marina marries him the next day; it's fate. Leo is ecstatic about taking her back to his shop in Greenwich Village; she's a babe.

Don't think this trite-to-its-core movie will show us anything as daring as a fulfilling sexual relationship between the golden girl from Ghost and a man who resembles a side of beef. It turns out that Marina's ability to foresee which people should be a couple doesn't work on her. Enter Dr. Alex Tremor (Jeff Daniels), a boyish, suspender-wearing shrink who better fits the Prince Charming image. (Obviously, Daniels hasn't gagged yet from being typecast as a yuppie cipher.) He and Moore spend the rest of the movie playing Ken and Barbie, while their neighbors visit the butcher shop to get Marina's romantic predictions.

There's Frances McDormand as a lovelorn lesbian, Max Perlich as a young pop artist who falls for Marina, Margaret Colin as a soap-opera actress who dates Alex and Mary Steenburgen as a choir teacher with a yen for torch songs and Leo. Since this impressive cast plays uniformly under par, point the finger at first-time feature director Terry Hughes, whose slam-bam sitcom style. (The Golden Girls) has a crushing effect on whimsy. Everybody ends up happier than a pig in a puddle, just as Grammy D'Arbo predicted. But my bet is you'll end up wishing somebody would shut Grammy up.

From The Archives Issue 73: December 24, 1970