`Rhapsody' at the Ritz

It was as I was changing from the red to the green line at Park Street that I noticed the power of a blazer and a tape recorder. People were appraising me with a look that I so rarely see in my typical jeans-and-backpack scruffy student mode.

Not like I minded. Having half an hour to jump from my reading period cubby hole in Lamont to a press luncheon at the Ritz for the press screening of "Miami Rhapsody," I appreciated their ogling as quasi votes of confidence.

An obsequious elevator operator at the Ritz whisked me up to the sixth floor conference room, where nine Boston critics were already mingling. Utensils sparkled on the flower-laden table, but no one dared to sit down until lead actress Sarah Jessica Parker and the film's writer, director and producer, David Frankel '81, arrived.

Though Frankel said he did not have Parker in mind for the lead in his first feature film, about a young woman confronting the hypocrisies of modern marriage, she was at the top of his list when casting began. "Sarah's a comic genius," he said.

"Miami Rhapsody" is the first film in which Parker, whose film credits include, "Footloose," "L.A. Story," "Hocus Pocus," "Honeymoon in Vegas," and "Ed Wood," has had the starring role. But she has performed extensively on stage and television as a singer and dancer. She was first cast in a lead as a child, when she won the coveted lead in "Annie" on Broadway.


One would expect a child-actor turned adult star would have an affected air and an inflated sense of self-worth. But Parker's down-to-earth manner and genuine modesty became apparent in the luncheon's posh setting. The actress handled the movie reviewers with solicitous finesse.

At one point, not wanting to interrupt a critic's query, Parker rose and tiptoed around the table. Pausing between two critics, she reached over the table, and grabbed the salt shaker.

"Sorry," she said with a sheepish grimace as she made her way back to her seat and regarded the critics sitting in stunned silence. A star simply does not have to fetch her own salt.

Parker, who has perenially played the "girlfriend" role in films, was enthusiastic about her role in "Miami Rhapsody" as copy-writer Gwyn Marcus, who is reminiscient of a young female Woody Allen character. "[She is] so dimensional, so fleshed out, so full of all the things that make us human, as opposed to what we generally see on screen in terms of womens' roles."

Touching on the film's similarities to Allen's writing, Parker said the prevalence of witty one-liners emitted by Gwyn, was daunting. Her mouth is her defense mechanism. "My biggest concern, in fact my only concern, when I read the script, was how many punch lines she had; and how to deliver all of them."

She added, "It was also the first time I had ever played anybody who was so witty and so full of sarcasm and cynicism and fear and ambivalence."

Parker's role in the film, as a hesitating fiancee, is ironic in light of her perpetual secrecy about her long relationship with actor Matthew Broderick. She dodged questions about their involvement, noting only that, "My own view is probably more optimistic than Gwyn's. I'd like to believe that marriage can work."

Frankel, explaining the inspiration for his film, spoke about his own views on marriage. "A lot of people just dive right in. As if marriage were a wonderful next step and there's no asterisk or Surgeon General's warning that this could also be hazardous to your health."

Franked has vivid memories of his undergraduate days at Harvard. A government concentrator, he wrote his thesis on the fiction of the Vietnam War with Professor StanleIy Hoffmann. Frankel's interest in screen-plays began when he studied playwriting and took film-making courses at MIT. "By junior year I was pretty committed to ending up in Hollywood. I wrote movie reviews for the Crimson. I lived in Mather house, but, as you know, you end up living at the Crimson."

Across the table, the Harvard network started humming as a critic interjected, "I also wrote movie reviews for the Crimson. That's why I have to congratulate you on making it into comedy writing without going through the Lampoon,"