- Annabeth Gish as Kat Arujo
- Julia Roberts as Daisy Arujo
- Lili Taylor as Jojo Barbosa
- Vincent D’Onofrio as Bill Montijo
- William R. Moses as Tim Travers
- Adam Storke as Charlie Gordon Windsor, Jr.
- Conchata Ferrell as Leona
An enchanting slice of coming of age drama, Mystic Pizza is delightfully directed and acted, crafting an entertaining and quite moving story of three girls growing up and learning about the unpredictability of life.
In the seaside town of Mystic, Connecticut that has a largely Portuguese-American population, three working-class young ladies are fresh out of high school. These girls are sisters Kat and Daisy Arujo and best friend Jojo Barbosa. All three of them work as waitresses at the eponymous pizza parlor that is run by Leona, who watches over the girls with a sagacious eye. Kat is the studious one, who has been accepted to Yale but is saving the money up to pay for it. She is seen by many as the sensible girl of the three. To help pay for university, the bright Kat(whose main passion is astrology) takes another job babysitting for Tim Travers and his young daughter. Soon enough, Kat falls hard for her employer as they bond over subjects and each other’s company, despite knowing that he has a wife and he is significantly older. Kat’s sister Daisy is the complete opposite; brassy, loose and wild. As much as the sisters are close, there is rivalry between them as Kat is held in high regard by her mother for her drive, while the feisty Daisy is chided for her lack of direction and immoral behaviour. Daisy catches the attentions of preppy Charlie Gordon Windsor, Jr, a recent law school dropout who is something of the black sheep in his affluent family. Yet Daisy begins to wonder whether Charlie is really into their union or is just trying to rebel against his family by dating her. Completing the troika is Jojo, who is the wise-cracking kooky one. She was supposed to marry rugged and big-hearted fisherman Bill at the beginning of the film but couldn’t go through with it. She’s still seeing Bill, though he now doesn’t want to have sex until the two are married. This poses a problem for Jojo as she wants adventure, sex and to live life before settling down. Over the course of the film, the three girls will learn about life, love and friendship as each contemplates the future.
Donald Petrie directs with a real flavour for the material, bestowing Mystic Pizza with amusing anecdotes and sensitively observed lessons in love and growth. He knows when to use humour and when to imbue the film with poignancy as each of the three girls navigates changes and feelings that affect them deeply. It’s the keen insight into their journeys that makes Mystic Pizza a heartening experience as we grow to like these three ladies just on the cusp of womanhood. We relate to them and share their hopes, dreams and fears of what could lie ahead, both for their lives and their hearts. It helps that the script defines these characters as individuals and brings out all their idiosyncrasies in delightfully warm fashion, making them very well-defined. Sure some of it gets a bit mawkish on occasion, but Mystic Pizza is so heartwarming and arresting that this can be seen as a really minor flaw in what is a very well made and excellent story. A lilting score, infused with a Portuguese tint to establish the atmosphere of the town is beautifully rendered.
Annabeth Gish is engaging and subtle as Kat, a girl with a clear set of goals but not immune to the longings of the heart which she comes to realise. Gish imbues the part with a straight arrow intelligence and slight naivety as her character unexpectedly develops feelings for her much older employer. As the feisty and sassy Daisy, who wants to do anything to get out of Mystic and finds her love life changing and being challenged, Julia Roberts showcases star charisma, sensitivity and big personality which would all help her to become of the biggest stars on the planet in the ensuing years after the release of this film. Lili Taylor rounds out the female circle of leads with an eccentric performance as the free-spirited and slightly oddball Jojo, who is caught between settling down on experimenting with life before it. A real feeling of camaraderie can be seen in the work of the three main actresses and this chemistry is what makes the film work so well as we believe their bonds of friendship that they share deeply with one another. And while it’s the ladies that dominate the film, the men do well too, albeit in less interesting roles. Vincent D’Onofrio stars as the amusingly good-hearted gentle giant who wants to marry Jojo because he is so in love with her and continues to pursue her. William R. Moses plays the object of Kat’s affections good enough while Adam Storke portrays the blue-blooded guy attracted to Daisy, but constantly at the behest of his family who he tries to impress. In a sharp supporting turn, Conchata Ferrell is motherly and firm as the owner of the pizza place, who guards her secret recipe tightly, much to the girl’s annoyance as they attempt various ways to get her to spill.
Well played by the cast and observed with emotional clarity, Mystic Pizza is a feel-good movie that touches the heart, yet never forgets to shed light on the often difficult lessons we all must learn as we grow up and must make important decisions.