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March 31, 1989 - Image 76

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-03-31

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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Woody Allen, center and Mae Questel, appear in Allen's newest film,
Oedipus Wrecks, part of the New York Stories trilogy.

'Oedipus Wrecks' Ruins
Image Of Jewish VVomen

AVIVA KEMPNER

Special to The Jewish News

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76

FRIDAY, MARCH 31, 1989

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THE

JEWISH NEWS!

A

larger than life,
over bearing Jewish
mother rears her head
in Woody Allen's newest
work, Oedipus Wrecks, and
perpetuates her embarrass-
ing trite existence for yet
another film season. This
movie appears last among a
trilogy of short cinematic
tales that focus on New York
City as a backdrop, entitled
New York Stories.
Both the characters and
plot line in Oedipus Wrecks
are as stale as week-old
challah. Allen plays the
anguishing, nebbish central
male figure himself — a
50-year-old Jewish lawyer
named Sheldon — who cannot
unburden himself of his
domineering mother. He is
romantically involved with
Lisa, a non-Jew with three
kids, played by Mia Farrow,
who is quiet and understan-
ding. She does not try to
emasculate him like "dear old
mom."
In a classical storyline,
Sheldon takes Lisa home to
meet his mother, played by
pint-sized Mae Questel. In
one of the few funny scenes of
the film, Mom makes sure to
tell the prospective wife that
her little Sheldon will go bald
just like his father did and
points out how he changed his
name from Milstein to Mills.
She gives Sheldon unsolicited
advice not to marry Lisa.
These disconcerting corn-

Former Detroit filmmaker
Aviva Kempner is working on
a film documentary about
baseball great Hank
Greenberg.

ments and her continual
harassments make Mother
take on gigantic proportions
in Sheldon's eyes, especially
during his sessions with his
psychiatrist. She is the
ultimate nudnick and kvetch
who makes her poor son's life
miserable.

Her complaining finally
gets the better of her as
Allen, the writer, uses a
magic trick to distance
himself from his mother.
Thanks to him the diehard
stereotype of the Jewish
mother reaches new heaven-
ly heights. But her physical
elevation has an inverse rela-
tionship to how funny the
characterization comes across
the screen. Once Allen
employs this magical potion
the film becomes one long,
bad joke. Only at the end in
one hilarious orchestrated
scene when Allen adorns a
piece of chicken and sees the
light about where his affec-
tions lie does he offer some
fresh humor.

The film is basically more
painful than funny. Maybe
Allen is suffering from guilt
because he is not involved
with a Jewish woman in his
own personal life. In Oedipus
Wrecks he overdoes the
Jewish mother bit to the
point of discomfort. How bla-
tant can you get when his sex
life improves dramatically as
his mother is missing?
Even when a Jewish
woman does arrive on the
screen to befriend Sheldon,
she begins to display the
mini-characteristics of
Sheldon's mother. One can
imagine her slowly, but sure-
ly growing into the character
mold of Jewish Mother, as

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