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Overall Rating

Awesome: 41.38%
Worth A Look44.83%
Just Average: 6.9%
Pretty Crappy: 0%
Sucks: 6.9%

2 reviews, 17 user ratings

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Big Night
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by Rob Gonsalves

"Terrific entertainment."
5 stars

This fall has been the worst movie season in recent memory; Hollywood has been dropping one expensive, star-studded turd after another. So I'm happy to see that 'Big Night,' which has wowed critics and tickled art-house audiences, is breaking into a wider release. It has no stars, just fine actors. It has no gimmicks, just a good story well told. We've reached the point where independent films, which used to be artsy and inaccessible, are now reviving the lost art of simplicity.

Stanley Tucci, a character actor whose brilliant work on last season's Murder One reached too few viewers, wears four hats in this labor of love: co-producer, co-writer (with cousin Joseph Tropiano), co-director (with Campbell Scott, who has a small role as a car dealer), and co-star -- with another unsung actor, Tony Shalhoub of NBC's Wings. Having made money for other people, Tucci was ready to make art for a change. His movie reflects his own status as an artist in a commercial industry.

It's the late '50s, and Italian brothers Primo (Shalhoub) and Secondo (Tucci) are trying to keep their small New Jersey restaurant, The Paradise, from sinking into bankruptcy. Primo, the cook, thinks of his work as art that must retain its integrity -- no meatballs with his risotto, even if the customers want them. Secondo, the manager, respects Primo's culinary genius but knows it's killing their business.

Across the street is a loud, lurid joint named after its owner Pascal (Ian Holm at his funniest), an effusive Italian who sells American patrons their stereotypical idea of Italian dining. "The rape of cuisine," Primo calls it. Shrewd business, Secondo might call it. Pascal, who likes the brothers (though Primo loathes him), offers them a last shot at success: He'll ask Louis Prima, the popular singer, to dine at The Paradise.

Preparing for Prima's visit, the brothers go all out, inviting friends and lovers to join them for what can only be decribed as an orgy of food. Be prepared to hear many moans of pleasure and pain at Big Night, which serves dish after dish that looks orgasmically delicious. Be prepared to hit the aisle running towards a restaurant after the movie, too. Local Italian eateries should stock their kitchens accordingly.

The movie has many lively moments, but it also knows when to sit still. There's a riveting final shot of Secondo and Primo in the kitchen that lasts five minutes without a cut. Nothing happens and everything happens. (Director of photography Ken Kelsch, a master of nailed-down camerawork, did similar things in Bad Lieutenant.) And the actors-directors do fine work with the cast: Minnie Driver is more vibrant here than she is in Sleepers, and Isabella Rossellini loosens up and has fun.

Tucci and Shalhoub work beautifully together, expertly drawing Primo and Secondo's fraternal tensions without resorting to clichés. 'Big Night' is a triumph for everyone involved, but especially for Stanley Tucci. He's spent years serving the meatballs audiences wanted. Now he has made an exquisite dish of risotto, and, best of all, audiences are eating it up.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=634&reviewer=416
originally posted: 01/31/07 22:54:14
[printer] printer-friendly format  
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Florida Film Festival For more in the 2007 Florida Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

12/20/14 Dane R. Youssef A movie that will forever change how you're gonna think about foreigners, cuisine, life. 5 stars
7/05/10 art a film about GREASY SLOP,served at a dump,in "GLORIOUS" new jersey! 1 stars
4/12/10 art ALL THAT SLOP in this movie gave me INDIGSTION NUT"S to this TURKEY! 1 stars
1/30/04 fhfjrfh A dramatic and emotional piece of cinema. 5 stars
4/05/03 Jack Sommersby A lovely film about family love and the love of food. 4 stars
6/25/01 Monday Morning I had to go make an omelet right after seeing this. Great stuff. 4 stars
3/19/01 Tom Indulges your senses in a fun, dramatic, wonderful piece of cinema. A++ 5 stars
10/29/99 Bozo Eat first, then enjoy this slice-of-life that has alot going for it 5 stars
7/02/99 Sleeper Bloody wonderful. 4 stars
4/25/99 Michael Grimm made me hungry, some parts drug on though 4 stars
4/11/99 Alonzo (alc311@hotmail.com) This wasn't as good as I thought It'd be, sort of boring, but ok overall 3 stars
1/02/99 tarkin666 Goddamn, what a great film. Actually made me feel something. 5 stars
12/02/98 Kirgo One of the best films of that year! 5 stars
11/25/98 Mr.Pink Intimate and well-acted. The last scene is one of the most touching that I've seen recently 4 stars
8/30/98 Mister Whoopee No. I hated this. WTF?! Ending terrible. 3 stars
8/25/98 Pete Well written, well acted. A great "feel" to this flick. And with Ian Holm! 4 stars
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  20-Sep-1996 (R)



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