This little gem, a darling of the festival circuit and cause for a huge rebirth in star, co-writer, co-producer, and co-director Stanley Tucci's career, tells the beautiful and touching story of two brothers (Tucci as Secondo, and Wings cab driver Tony Shalhoub as Primo) trying to make it as restaurateurs, straight off the boat from Italy.
Primo, the head chef, refuses to compromise on the tiniest detail regarding the food, while Secondo does battle on the business end. The meals they serve are second to none, but all the customers go down the street to their rival's (an Italian Ian Holm) thanks to his singing waiters. With the bank ready to foreclose, Primo and Secondo try to turn things around, and they put all they've got into one last feast in honor of jazz great Louis Prima, who may or may not actually be showing up. A big night indeed.
Intertwining the restaurant drama with the brothers' unsatisfying personal lives, Tucci and co-writer Joseph Tropiano tell a beautiful and touching story that resonates with a authenticity rarely found in today's films. Tucci, Shalhoub, and Holm are all excellent, as are Isabella Rossellini and Circle of Friends's Minnie Driver as Secondo's love interests. Tucci and co-director Campbell Scott (co-star of Singles) also do excellent work considering their amateur status.
While the film can get a bit talky at times (beware of the scenes with subtitles), it's overall a very moving and delightful first work for these guys. Deserving special notice are the exquisite cooking/dining scenes, which do for Italian food what Eat Drink Man Woman did for Chinese. All-in-all, it's a warm, funny, and at the same time heartbreaking look at one big night in the company of some truly interesting people.
Tucci and Shalhoub compare fingers.
Run time: 107 mins
In Theaters: Friday 20th September 1996
Distributed by: Samuel Goldwyn Films
Production compaines: Rysher Entertainment
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 96%
Fresh: 52 Rotten: 2
IMDB: 7.4 / 10
Producer: Jonathon Filley
Starring: Stanley Tucci as Secondo, Tony Shalhoub as Primo, Marc Anthony as Cristiano, Minnie Driver as Phyllis, Isabella Rossellini as Gabriella, Liev Schreiber as Leo, Ian Holm as Pascal, Allison Janney as Ann, Dina Waters as Natalie