Thursday, August 19, 2010
Movie Review: Big Night
Studio: Sony Pictures
Rating (1 to 5*): ****
Big Night is a touching, small movie starring the likes of Tony Shaloub, Stanley Tucci, Minnie Driver and the incomparable Isabella Rossellini in a relatively small but beautifully acted role.
When this picture came out in 1996, the critics raved, and that resulted in a good deal of disappointment. This movie is a small and rather arty film. Stanley Tucci, co-writer as well as star of this little film, says that this story is "about the struggle between art and commerce and the risk of staying true to yourself." That is what defines this movie.
This is the tale of two brothers who are struggling to keep their lovely little restaurant afloat in 1950s New Jersey. Secondo, the younger and more US savvy of the brothers, approaches their competitor for advice. He strikes a rather Faustian deal with him, staking the survival of their place, and their continued stay in America, on a single dinner party: a big night.
The brothers, their friends and their guests cook, serve and consume one of the finest on-screen meals in the history of cinema. The love, joy and fraternity of the dinner guests is palpable as romance blossoms and dies and hope grows, fails, and grows again.
The music deserves special mention. It is a combination of popular Italian music, popular American music from the 50s and swinging Louis Prima tunes. You will want the soundtrack to play in your kitchen for the next month.
Reviewers were too good to this movie. Audiences seemed to expect a blockbuster when it is, in fact, a beautiful little movie. The story is slow-paced and told gently. There are no car chases or gunfights. It is an excellently acted picture, and it draws the sympathetic audience in completely. There is, of course, a central, spectacular feast that will make any devout foodie want to create a vast dinner party. Look up a good timpano recipe and let the wine flow in rivers.