Love in the stacks

In this oddball of a film, I Love You to Death (1990), loyal Italian-American Rosalie (Tracey Ullman) blinds herself at first to the philandering ways of her husband, Joey (Kevin Kline). No spoiler alerts here, as the whole premise of the film is about how — and how many times — Rosalie tries to kill Joey after finding out about the cheating. I Love You to Death is one of those black comedies that hasn’t quite got the right balance of comedy and fearlessness necessary to pull the whole thing off. And it’s an ensemble with some really big names (River Phoenix, William Hurt, Keanu Reeves) in throwaway parts.

And how does Rosalie find out about Joey’s cheating? Ooh, boy, in the least expected place, of course: the library. Cue the violins.

About a half-hour into the film, Rosalie walks into a local public library branch with a stack of children’s books under her arm. After putting the books on the front counter, she says to the librarian on duty, “I’m returning these,” receiving a pleasant smile and standard response of “Ok, thanks.” The reel librarian, a young white female (Audrey Rapoport), is dressed conservatively, albeit colorfully, in a zipped-up red dress and pastel blue cardigan encrusted with flowers. Her brownish hair is pulled back, and her minimal jewelry consists of small pearl drop earrings and a ring.

There appears to be another reel librarian toward the back of the shot, talking to a couple of patrons. From the angle of the shot, she looks to be behind the counter, so I’m also including her as a reel librarian. This female (uncredited), also white but middle-aged, wears a cardigan/sweater (of course), along with a bright orange scarf. Two Information Providers in the Class IV category.

The camera quickly ditches the lumpy sweaters and follows Rosalie as she wanders through the library stacks. Soon enough, she overhears her husband’s distinctive voice (and terrible Italian accent) and spies the two soon-to-be-lovers kissing inbetween the rows of books.

Thank goodness she’s not a reel librarian

Obviously, these two are NOT conducting the usual kind of reference interview.

Woman: “What am I doing in a library?”

Joey: “What’s that perfume? You smell so good. What?”

Woman: “Not here. They’re gonna throw us out.”

Joey:  “Good. Get your book and let’s get out of here.”

Woman:  “Where are we gonna go?”

Joey:  “I say we go to your place, have a good time.”

Woman:  “What about your wife?”

Joey:  “No, she can’t come. All set? Come on. I gotta get back to work soon.”

Here is Rosalie’s devastated reaction:

As the camera reveals both the infidelity and the wife’s reaction through the rows of books, we, the audience, are voyeurs on both sides. We are participants in both the passion and the pain.

Poor Rosalie. She was just looking for books, but her husband was looking for love in all the wrong places.

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2 comments on “Love in the stacks

  1. As the camera reveals both the infidelity and the wife’s reaction through the rows of books, we, the audience, are voyeurs on both sides. We are participants in both the passion and the pain.

    What a great passage! Terrific write-up on such a strange movie. :)

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