Joey Boca is a hardworking family-man! He owns a pizza-parlor and also the building housing said pizza-parlor and has the apartments for rent too, so there’s plenty to do during the days. His wife, Rosalie, also works hard with the place and takes care of the paperwork. Joey is an incurable womanizer, so he also does “favors” for the lonely women in the building, as well as for the ones he meets at the nightclubs when he goes out almost every night. A busy man, wouldn’t you agree?
Joey and Rosalie are played by Kevin Kline and Tracey Ullman. I’ve always liked Mr. Kline as an actor and he is amazingly funny in I Love You To Death. Just watching his facial expressions is enough to make you laugh and the way he says “What?” in that fake Italian accent is hilarious. Many of you will probably remember him from A Fish Called Wanda or maybe from one of my personal favorites, Life as a House.
I first heard of Tracey Ullman when she was “just” a singer and released the singles “Breakaway” and “They Don’t Know” back in 1983. (My brother and I were big fans and I think he still has the album at his place) She has since then become a great actress and comedienne, and has been in Bullets Over Broadway and Robin Hood: Men in Tights for instance, as well as a lot of TV-shows.
She is also very good in I Love You To Death. To be fair, they all are in this movie. The cast, I mean! Because the story in itself is simple enough, but what makes it so damn good is the cast and there are some great names here. Joan Plowright (Dennis the Menace, 101 Dalmatians) plays Nadja, Rosalie’s mother, and I start to laugh just thinking about her. She’s so damn funny and, just like with Kevin Kline, it comes down to the facial expressions and the way she says things. She’s also the one who first suggest that they should kill Joey! But wait… I’m getting ahead of myself here!
As I said, Joey is a womanizer and although he loves his wife and family, he can’t stop cheating on Rosalie, his excuse being that he’s Italian and a human man. Devo, the helper at the pizza parlor and a good friend of the family, finds out about it and tries to tell Rosalie. Devo is played by River Phoenix from Stand By Me and Explorers among others. Rosalie, naturally doesn’t want to believe it, although she knows that the ladies has a god eye for Joey and he, for them. She believes he would never do anything more than look, let alone cheat on her.
That is… until she catches him “in flagrante delicto” and sees it with her own eyes, at the library of all places! At first she just wants to kill herself but then Mama Nadja comes up with a plan to kill HIM instead. Well, several plans actually! The first two attempts, one involving a baseball bat and the other an almost exploding car, fails miserably. After the baseball bat incident, two police-officers are called to take a statement, but… nothing really comes of that. They’re played by James Gammon (Major League 1 & 2) and Jack Kehler (The Big Lebowski) and are old friends of the Boca family.
The next attempt on Joey’s life comes when Rosalie and Nadja tries to drug him with sleeping pills, and it’s actually here, at the start of what I refer to as the spaghetti and Monopoly scene, that the movie gets even funnier. From this point on it’s just one funny scene after the other until the end. Not that the movie hasn’t been funny up until now, no… it just turns it up a notch! Two whole bottles of sleeping pills doesn’t seem to do the trick, so they call Devo and have him shoot Joey!
When THAT doesn’t work… they have to get outside help. This all takes place during the same evening, so Devo, being the nice boy that he is (according to Nadja), agrees to go to a bar and hire someone to kill Joey. And this… is where the two cousins Harlan and Marlon come in. Let’s see… how can I put this most eloquently? First of all they’re drug-addicts and they are, without a doubt, the two worst killers in the entire world or known history of man, even! They’re so over the top and ridiculous that it’s hard to grasp, but very, very funny to watch.
Marlon is played by Keanu Reeves (River’s Edge, Parenthood) and kind of a natural choice here, since he does this type of character brilliantly. The actor playing his cousin Harlan is more of a surprise and one you don’t normally see in this type of role. It’s William Hurt, whom I’m sure you’ll remember more from movies like Kiss of the Spider Woman or Broadcast News than this one, but he does it superbly. Mr. Reeve’s character Marlon is a little bit more “out there”, but let me tell you, Harlan is not very far behind!
Other cast-members worth mentioning is Victoria Jackson as Lacey, a woman whom Joey pays frequent visits to and Miriam Margolyes as Joey’s mother. She’s only seen in a brief scene at the end but how she feels about the whole matter, is nothing Joey will forget for a while. I’m sorry but I have to mention another movie she was also in. It’s a funny little thing called Plots with a View which stars Alfred Molina and Christopher Walken and is a great romantic comedy with the side-story being two competing undertakers. If you get the chance, I would recommend watching it!
The lovely ladies Phoebe Cates and Heather Graham also have small roles in I Love You To Death. There’s also a small Star Trek: Enterprise connection here. In a VERY brief scene there’s a guy only referred to as a jailhouse informant who spills the beans to the police about Harlan and Marlon’s attempt on Joey’s life. This guy is played by John Billingsley who on Enterprise was known as Dr. Phlox.
I Love You To Death is supposed to be loosely based on a true story and I remember reading a little about it at the time, but I really don’t take it as anything else than a damn good comedy. And I hope you don’t either!
So, until next time my friends… Do you have anything you’d like to add to this? If so, please let us know in the comment section below!