One of those concept comedies that should have been red-lighted at the first story conference, HOLY MATRIMONY deals with a Billie Dawnish blonde bombshell forced to hide out with a religious sect in Canada. Riddled with sitcom construction, sticky sentimentality, and phony accents of
indeterminate national origin, this movie isn't saved by sunny photography lavished on some scenic wonders, including Patricia Arquette.
Desperate showgirl Havana (Patricia Arquette), who idolizes Marilyn Monroe, is eager to leave her job at a midway carnival far behind. Pretending to seduce her boss, Mr. Greeson (Richard Riehle), Havana steals the key to his safe and slips it to boyfriend Peter (Tate Donovan). They steal the
receipts and take it on the lam to Canada, where bad boy Peter grew up in a Hutterite sect. Although his religious Uncle Wilhelm (Armin Mueller Stahl) and doting younger brother Ezechiel (Joseph Gordon Levitt) embrace his return, they don't know what to make of his shrill, painted lady fiancee.
They marry, but Peter dies in a car accident; Ezechiel survives the tragedy. Unfortunately, by this religious colony's laws, Havana must marry Peter's brother (who happens to be 12 years old). Buying time while she searches for the money hidden by Peter, Havana surprises the elders by agreeing to
Havana proceeds to make her pipsqueak hubby's life a perfect misery, defiantly breaking all the Hutterites' age-old traditions. But Ezechiel, slyly exploiting his knowledge of the loot's whereabouts, indoctrinates his bride into proper behavior. Havana agrees to accompany him on a journey to
return the stolen money, intending to leave the kid holding an empty bag en route. Needless to say, she has a change of heart. Unbeknownst to them, a rogue FBI agent Markowski (John Shuck) has trailed them to Canada and back to the USA, feverishly scheming to retrieve the money for himself.
Markowski forces the couple off the road, but Havana manages to incapacitate him. The double-crossing fed then tracks them to the carnival, where Havana risks capture by rescuing Ezechiel. After Markowski is foiled and Mr. Greeson agrees to drop the charges, Havana thanks Ezechiel for the
opportunity to rethink her priorities and heads home to visit her own family.
Neither Meg Ryan, Melanie Griffith, nor Patricia Arquette come close to matching the combination of child-like shrewdness and vulnerability that summed up Marilyn Monroe's appeal. If Monroe were alive today, however, she probably wouldn't have been sent a script this dreadful; it smacks of
frantic comic activity camouflaging lack of inspiration and taste. The film's gimmicky formula involves dropping a foul-mouthed urban fox into a chicken coop of docile country folk and watching the feathers fly. Having irritated viewers with this contrivance, HOLY MATRIMONY further drains goodwill
by lamely pairing up the busty adult woman with a pint-sized slip of a boy. It's like FREAKS re-envisioned by the D-people at Touchstone Pictures. None of the slapstick lands a belly laugh; Havana's attempts to put one over on the local yokels are patronizing; namby-pamby Ezechiel's self-righteous
preachifying makes you want to strangle him. Shifting from unsatisfying sitcom to on-the-road adventure, the film proves as inept at manufacturing thrills as it does laughter; the subplot with the bent FBI agent seems one more act of desperate commercial moviemaking packaging. Redeemed only by
Arquette's charisma, HOLY MATRIMONY trashes a religious sect for a few cheap laughs in the name of good, clean, cutesy family fun. (Brief nudity, mild violence, profanity.)
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- Released: 1994
- Rating: PG-13
- Review: One of those concept comedies that should have been red-lighted at the first story conference, HOLY MATRIMONY deals with a Billie Dawnish blonde bombshell forced to hide out with a religious sect in Canada. Riddled with sitcom construction, sticky sentimen… (more)