The Linguini Incident (1991)

the linguini incident

“God, you’re alive! I thought that rabbit was eating your head.”

The Scoop: 1991 R, directed by Richard Shepard and starring Rosanna Arquette, David Bowie, and Eszter Balint

Tagline: He wants to be tied down. She wants to be tied up. It’s not what you think.

Summary Capsule: Lucy is obsessed with Harry Houdini. Monte needs a greencard pronto. So they plan to rob the restaurant they work at.


Eunice’s rating: “I wanna be like Harry Houdini And be the one to make the great escape I wanna be where no one’ll see me You’ve gotta learn a lesson give and take”

Eunice’s review: Remember the good old days of cable TV? It used to be a treasure trove of cult movies. Couldn’t find it on VHS? Don’t worry, some night you might randomly come across that movie your friend told you her cousin told her about that no one else has ever heard of. Those urban myth type movies, that in the pre-Google days you couldn’t be completely sure if they existed much less what the correct title was. Such a movie was The Linguini Incident.

I remember fondly sitting with a group of friends and family, watching it because it was something we’d never seen before. And then it started: “That was kinda weird,” they said. “I didn’t get it.” “Stupid.” I got to experience the familiar feeling of being the only one who liked the quirky odd ball movie. Questa è la mia vita.

Lucy (Rosanna Arquette) is a dinner waitress at one of those over priced hyper-trendy, slightly theme-y restaurants in the late eighties/early nineties. The owners of said establishment are two infuriatingly financially manic middle aged, yet strangely likable, attention seekers and the clientele are rude. But most of the wait staff are rude too as everyone hates their jobs. Monte (David Bowie) is a new bartender at the same restaurant, and has been asking every woman who works there to marry him. It seems he only has about a week to get his green card, his life depends on it, or he may be a pathological liar, or both. Lucy spends her off time trying to live out her life long dream: To become an escape artist/magician like Harry Houdini. She’s been obsessed with him and his wife since she was a little girl, and has spent all her money on every thing Houdini related she can get her hands on.

So when Lucy finds Mrs. Houdini’s wedding ring, she must have it! And when Monte figures out he can pay someone to marry him, well he’s on his way. Just… neither of them have the money. So at nearly the same time they come up with the same plan: To rob the restaurant. After some bickering and flirting they decide to join forces, if he’ll be her assistant at an important gig and she’ll marry him. When they need a third to pull off the job, they recruit Lucy’s best (only?) friend Viv, a struggling extreme fashion designer whose pride and joy is a self defense bra. Thus the Lethal Cleavage Bandit is born.

The Linguini Incident is definitely a movie that belongs to a certain time, a time of completely ridiculous story concepts with weird details and comedy making fun of things that you couldn’t make fun of without getting really dark nowadays (like all the ways Lucy nearly dies). A time that was already waning and would pretty much die out about 1993, only two years later. The laughable clothes and hideous hair that represents being fashionable also dates it. Being the director’s first movie, could be tighter and more polished. And, without a firmer grip at the helm, it kinda drifts around all the different things it wants to be, is it a romantic comedy, or a heist film, or about the restaurant, or Lucy mastering the escape artist thing? Yes. No. All of the above.

So why do I say I like it? It is first and foremost, a fun little movie. Now as someone who David Bowie made an impression on with The Labyrinth, and went through a Houdini phase as a girl, and loves quirky movies – I could be just a tad biased. Just a smidge. I may not put it in my ‘LOVE SQUEEE!’ category, but, gosh, do I really like this movie. I like the chemistry between Monte, Lucy, and Viv. Some of the writing is quite funny and occasionally downright clever. Where it may falter in the technical departments, the acting and comedic timing are very good. It’s weird in a good way. It has a lot of heart in it, and some truly great parts. I love the ending (had a touch of Mystery Men). And there’s twists.

And bras with knives that pop out of them, I mean that has to count for something!

And as horrible a person it might make me, watching Lucy fail over and over cracks me up. Her painfully embarrassing audition in particular is worth noting. It’s sad, but so so funny. And Monte is weaselly, cute, charming, and cheeky all at the same time.

It’s not deep or life affirming, but over here on my Island of Misfit Movies, The Linguini Incident lives on in a special place of honor.

"...And then I woke up dressed as a flapper and handcuffed to David Bowie. Craziest Friday night ever."
“…And then I woke up dressed as a flapper and handcuffed to David Bowie. Craziest Friday night ever.”


  • So the review version is from the UK, I can’t remember how much of a difference this makes.
  • This is director Richard Shepard’s first movie. He was/is so unhappy with the end result, particularly the editing, that he has pretty much disowned it in its current form. Though he has said if he could get a hold of the untouched footage he would want to go back and re-cut it.
  • Weird alternative titles you’ll find on some of the shadier looking releases: Shag-O-Rama, The Robbery, and Houdini and Company
  • Counting wrong – In Swedish!
  • You don’t actually hear Lucy flush…
  • Burnt marshmallows, breakfast of champions.
  • Yes, that is Oscar winner Marlee Matlin
  • -And Drew Carey Show’s Kathy Kinney
  • -And David Bowie’s wife, Iman, as the audience member who wants Lucy to die.
  • I forgot all about when Monte actually gives Viv the gun, I laughed so hard.
  • The Bicycle: Worst robbery vehicle.
  • When our children ask “Was fashion/fad restaurants really so garish?” What will we tell them? What will we tell them…
  • That is exactly the same thing Justin does when he needs to buy time
  • How about while I’m writing this Houdini starring Tony Curtis comes on. Kismet!

Groovy Quotes

Tony:What are you doing wasting your time on the lunch waitresses? The dinner waitresses are a much better class of waitress, man.

Monte: ‘ello, I love you.

Lucy: I can’t go out for three days.
Monte: Have you been bad?

Monte: God, you’re alive! I thought that rabbit was eating your head.

Swedish Waitress: In Sweden we always say, “A meal without a pie is like a meal without sex.”

Woman: Are you the Ethereal Lucy?
Monte: That’s Lucy the Ethereal.
Woman: And who might you be?
Monte: Monte… the Emasculated.

Guy: She’s lovely, but unkempt.
Lucy: “Unkempt”?
Monte: She’s kempt.

Vivian: The simple plan is, no one in this room is going to have sex with anyone else in this room. We’ll be platonic… like our parents.

Lucy: Well stop looking at me!
Monte: Where do you think you’re performing tomorrow night, the school for the blind?

If you liked this movie, try these:

  • Rough Magic
  • Heathers
  • Into the Night
  • The Maiden Heist


  1. Comedy, as I’ve mentioned before, is not really my thing, but this sounds interesting enough to put it on my ‘possible exceptions if I ever come across them’ list.

  2. “Couldn’t find it on VHS? Don’t worry, some night you might randomly come across that movie your friend told you her cousin told her about that no one else has ever heard of.”

    Daaaahlinks, that is what this site is for me. For instance, I must now track down a copy of this movie. Hey, you had me at “handcuffed to David Bowie.”

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