- 1988 Coming of age movie starring Annabeth Gish, Julia Roberts, and Lili Taylor.
- Directed by Donald Petrie
- Featured the film debut of Matt Damon
- Critically acclaimed movie which grossed only $12m at the US Box Office
Mystic Pizza is a 1988 American coming-of-age film directed by Donald Petrie and starring Annabeth Gish, Julia Roberts, and Lili Taylor.
The film has gained a large cult following since its release and has received relatively positive reviews from critics, who praised the performances by the three lead actresses. It marked Matt Damon’s film debut.
The film is about the coming of age of two sisters and their friend through the romantic lives of the three main characters: Kat Araújo (Annabeth Gish), Daisy Araújo (Julia Roberts), and Jojo Barbosa (Lili Taylor), who are waitresses at Mystic Pizza owned by Leona (Conchata Ferrell) in Mystic, Connecticut. In the film, Mystic is represented as a fishing town with a large Portuguese-American population. The film also touches on an Old World work ethic.
Kat and Daisy are sisters and total opposites. Kat studies astronomy, works at the planetarium in the famous Whaling Museum of The Mystic Seaport, and having been accepted to attend Yale University on a partial scholarship, works at the restaurant at night and as a nanny by day to obtain the rest of the money for school. Daisy just wants to find lust while trying to get out of Mystic. Kat is the apple of her Portuguese mother’s eye, while Daisy is not because her mother feels she is more wild and is not as goal-oriented as her younger sister.
Daisy meets a handsome young man named Charles (Adam Storke) at a bar. The two are immediately attracted to each other and begin a relationship, much to her mother’s dismay believing that the relationship will prevent her from becoming like Kat. However, at a family dinner, his relatives unintentionally make insensitive comments about her ethnicity, and Charles overreacts. Daisy breaks up with him, believing that his family’s remarks were harmless and that he was simply using her to show up his parents.
There is chemistry between Kat and her Anglo-American employer, Tim (William R. Moses), a father who has hired her to look after his young daughter, Phoebe, while his wife is away. A relationship develops between them that consummates in sex she believes is love. However, it results in heartache for Kat when the wife returns and her illusion of love with Tim is shattered. Daisy and Kat bond when Kat is devastated after Tim’s and her evening together and Daisy comforts her baby sister.
Jojo wants to have sex with her boyfriend Bill (Vincent D’Onofrio), whom she attempted to marry at the beginning of the movie, but fainted after deciding she couldn’t go through with it. However, Bill refuses to have sex with her until they are married, which is something she still isn’t ready for. Seeing how she tries to look for every chance to have sex with him, Bill believes that Jojo doesn’t love him like he does her, and is only after him for sex, and breaks up with her.
Later, a famous TV food critic nicknamed “The Fireside Gourmet” (Louis Turenne) visits the pizzeria. As Kat, Daisy, Jojo, and Leona watch from the counter, he takes a few bites of one slice, jots notes in his notebook, and then leaves after paying the check. His approval can do wonders for a restaurant, but they’re not optimistic. However, a few days later the critic gives the pizzeria his highest rating, calling it “superb.” The restaurant phone immediately starts ringing, with Leona laughing as she informs the caller that no reservations are needed.
In the end, Tim brings Phoebe to Mystic Pizza because she wants to say goodbye to Kat. Tim gives her a check to help cover her tuition expenses. Rather than accept it, she tears it up. She later accepts a check from Leona instead. Jojo finally agrees to marry Bill and at their wedding, Daisy and Charles reconcile. The film ends with the three girls together overlooking the water from the balcony of the restaurant, reminiscing about their time together.
- Annabeth Gish as Katherine “Kat” Araújo
- Julia Roberts as Daisy Araújo
- Lili Taylor as Jojo Barbosa
- Vincent D’Onofrio as Bill Montijo
- William R. Moses as Tim Travers
- Adam Storke as Charles Gordon Windsor, Jr.
- Conchata Ferrell as Leona
- Joanna Merlin as Mrs. Araújo
- Porscha Radcliffe as Phoebe Travers
- Louis Turenne as Hector “The Fireside Gourmet” Freshette
- Janet Zarish as Nicole “Nikki” Travers
- Arthur Walsh as Manny
- John Cunningham as Charles Gordon Windsor, Sr.
- Ann Flood as Polly Windsor
- Suzanne Shepherd as Aunt Tweedy
- Gene Amoroso as Mr. Barbosa
- Sheila Ferrini as Mrs. Barbosa
- John Fiore as Jake
- Lauren O’Brien as Serena
- Matt Damon as Steamer
- Jack Ringstad as Uncle Ned
- Jody Raymond as Teresa
- Dennis Paiva as himself (Portuguese-American wedding singer)
The title of the film was inspired by a pizza shop that caught the eye of Hollywood screenwriter Amy Holden Jones: Mystic Pizza restaurant located in Mystic, Connecticut, which has been popular among both locals and tourists since 1973. The film’s plot is set in Mystic, but most of the filming locations were in neighboring towns. The building used for the pizza restaurant was a converted home in Stonington Borough at 70 Water St. After the film’s release, the real-life Mystic Pizza building in downtown Mystic was renovated to resemble the movie set. The Windsor family home, the wedding reception restaurant, the Peg Leg Pub pool hall, and the fishing docks were also filmed in Stonington Borough.
The hitchhiking incident takes place on North Main Street in Stonington Town. The Araújo home is in Pawcatuck, Connecticut; the lobster business and the wedding church are in Noank, Connecticut. Tim Travers’ home and the Windsors’ country club are in Watch Hill, Rhode Island. The most notable scenes that take place in Mystic were filmed at the Mystic Seaport planetarium and at the Mystic River Bascule Bridge.
The film opened on October 21, 1988, to mostly favorable reviews, with a Rotten Tomatoes score of 77% for its VHS release. The film received “two thumbs up” from popular film critics Siskel and Ebert, giving particular praise to the three female leads, including Gish, whom Ebert likened to a “young Katharine Hepburn”. He also noted that the film “may someday become known for the movie stars it showcased back before they became stars.”
It was announced on January 22, 2019 that a musical adaptation of the movie will be adapted for the stage. Melissa Etheridge will write the score; Gordon Greenberg will direct and write the book with Sas Goldberg. This comes years after a fictional broadway musical adaptation of Mystic Pizza had served as a plot point in the early part of Season 2 of the NBC sitcom 30 Rock.