The Linguini Incident

  • 1992
  • Movie
  • R
  • Comedy, Drama

Arty Manhattanites come under the less-than-razor sharp gaze of writer-director Richard Shepard in THE LINGUINI INCIDENT, a meek comedy of manners that revolves around the customers and employees of a frighteningly trendy restaurant. Lucy (Rosanna Arquette) is an aspiring escape artist who makes ends meet waiting tables at Dali, a restaurant where the food...read more

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Arty Manhattanites come under the less-than-razor sharp gaze of writer-director Richard Shepard in THE LINGUINI INCIDENT, a meek comedy of manners that revolves around the customers and employees of a frighteningly trendy restaurant.

Lucy (Rosanna Arquette) is an aspiring escape artist who makes ends meet waiting tables at Dali, a restaurant where the food is clearly secondary to decor and ambiance. Monte (David Bowie) is Dali's new bartender, an Englishman who quickly makes it clear that he's willing to marry anyone for a

green card. Viv (Eszter Balint), Lucy's best friend, designs brassieres with knives concealed in the cups, the closest thing to an edge THE LINGUINI INCIDENT ever displays.

Quirky though things are, they're still not what they seem. Monte is a gambler, deeply in debt to Dali's supercilious owners Dante (Andre Gregory) and Cecil (Buck Henry). He draws Lucy and Viv into his convoluted schemes, and before you can say "plot device," they're all planning to rob the

restaurant. At the same time, Monte and Lucy are falling--hesitantly and oh-so-reluctantly--in love. Things actually work out, though hardly as the conspirators had planned. The robbery, featuring Viv's "lethal cleavage," turns out to be good for business, Monte wins his last, desperate bet with

Cecil and Dante, and Lucy decides to take a chance on romance.

This may be one of the eight million stories in the naked city, but at best it's a very slight one ... at worst it hardly seems to be a story at all. More than anything, THE LINGUINI INCIDENT plays as a series of quirky vignettes whose charm may elude the average viewer. Lucy's Houdini-esque

ambitions provide endless opportunities for mild bondage gags, while Viv's aggressive foundation garments occasion in-the-know allusions to everything from performance art to feminist rage. Marlee Matlin's one-joke role as a bad- tempered, opportunistic and, of course, deaf cashier is funny once,

but quickly wears thin. David Bowie is surprisingly charming in a hangdog sort of way, though his casting gives the role of Monte unexpected resonance not because of his rock star persona, but because he's obviously a bit old to be madcapping around the Lower East Side. Monte seems rather more

pathetic than the filmmakers seem to have intended.

The film's best casting is Buck Henry and Andre Gregory as Dali's owners, guilty of every sin of self-ness one can imagine. They're impossibly self- centered, self-satisfied, self-indulgent, self-important and, of course, consummately selfish. They're also witty and self-aware, something to which

the film as a whole aspires without success. The lion's share of THE LINGUINI INCIDENT's imagination seems to have been invested in set design, specifically, in the design of Dali. Though obvious, Dali is in fact a creditable parody of the monstrously overconceptualized restaurants in which New

York specializes (the corkscrew bread is a particularly nice touch); it's a shame no other aspect of the movie rings as true. From Viv and Lucy's picturesque roof (where they sit and discuss men) to the occult shop staffed by a fright-wigged Viveca Lindfors, THE LINGUINI INCIDENT's locations are

precious stereotypes, and the people who inhabit them are little better.

Unfavorable comparisons with Susan Seidelman's DESPERATELY SEEKING SUSAN, particularly in light of Arquette's casting, are inevitable, but they're also apt. DESPERATELY SEEKING SUSAN was genuinely quirky and offbeat, capturing the cheerful chaos of shiftless Downtown lives; THE LINGUINI INCIDENT

is a pale pretender that tries too hard. (Sexual situations.)

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  • Released: 1992
  • Rating: R
  • Review: Arty Manhattanites come under the less-than-razor sharp gaze of writer-director Richard Shepard in THE LINGUINI INCIDENT, a meek comedy of manners that revolves around the customers and employees of a frighteningly trendy restaurant. Lucy (Rosanna Arquett… (more)

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