Jonathan Demme’s gloriously eccentric and refreshingly sweet Married to the Mob (1988) is one of the ultimate comfort movies for me. So I watch it a lot. And every time I’m struck by the same thought: it’s clear that Demme knew what he had in Michelle Pfeiffer’s face and, most importantly, he knew what do with it.
Throughout the film Michelle is framed beautifully in one dazzling closeup after another. That remarkable, endearing, expressive face shows us Angela De Marco’s journey from kept mafia wife to independent single mom. No words are even necessary.
The closeups are extraordinarily powerful, thanks to Michelle’s talent for conveying emotions with just a look—her eyes especially are a veritable barometer of Angela’s heart and soul. Her eyes fill with pain, anger, and tears as her mob husband laughs off her demands for a divorce. Later, those calm, reassuring eyes soothe her son’s distress after his father’s death. When she falls for the undercover FBI agent who’s trailing her (Matthew Modine in one of his most fun performances), her eyes practically sparkle like diamonds, and her big, bright smile offers pure, cinematic bliss.
Kudos to the late, great Demme for allowing Michelle’s magnificent peepers to shine in one of her most beautiful performances.