The Italian immigrant Barberini family in Quebec erupts like Mount Etna when young would-be tv writer Angelo (Luke Kirby) reluctantly and belatedly tells his old fashioned, tradition-bound mother Maria (Stephanie Vecchio), father Gino (Paul Sorvino), and his hyperactive older sister Maria (Ginette Reno) that he is actually gay. His boyfriend Nino (Peter Miller) is a cop, whose equally shocked mother Lina (Mary Wals) hatches a plot to ‘turn’ her son, with a female decoy, Pina (Sophie Lorain) - but which turns out to be a disastrous idea.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Exceptionally deft writing and terrific performances propel this fast paced comedy across the screen with enough dramatic moments to give it a solid base. While director Emile Gaudreault opts for a slightly larger than life approach, we never get the sense the cast are ‘acting’. His direction and his editor’s sense of economy help give the film a terrific sense of pace, balanced with a few key dramatic moments that anchor the emotions.
The dialogue is zappy and often truly funny, but it’s the characters and the accurate observations in the writing that draw us into the film. Stephanie Vecchio and Paul Sorvino deliver a marvellous double act as the hidebound parents, and while there’s just a touch of gentle caricature, their tears (in a couple of key scenes) are real enough to be felt.
Luke Kirby manages to create a central character who at first earns our acceptance, then loses it before regaining it again. He is well matched by the calmer Peter Miller as the tall and handsome cop who wants to stay well inside the gay closet. Ginnette Reno is high voltage fun as the older, pill popping sister laying waste to a string of psychiatrists while trying to glue her family together. Like a runaway buggy, the film tows us across some rocky roads, through muddy potholes and along sunny green pastures at a thrilling speed but with just enough time to smell the roses and hear the music.
Review by Louise Keller:
My Big Fat Greek Wedding Italian-Style with a gay theme, Mambo Italiano is a hilarious and insightful glimpse into the quirks and idiosyncrasies of an Italian family. Add to the mix, the additional cultural conundrum of living in French-speaking Montreal, and the stage is set for a bonanza of a comedy filled with outrageous fun, pathos and all the emotions that volatile, hot-blooded Italian mothers, fathers, sons and daughters encounter.
Like MBFGW, Mambo Italiano found its origins on the stage and its Quebec/Italian creator Steve Gallucio has brought it to the screen, with director/scriptwriter Emile Gaudreault, amidst plenty of flair and spontaneity. There’s a wedding, a death and a coming-out in this vivacious, feel-good film that will make you smile ear to ear. Told from the point of view of the curly-haired, angelic faced Angelo (Luke Kirby, appealing), we are shown that ‘The Italian Way’ is a never-ending soap opera of drama.
Life is run by rules and the rules are very clear when it comes to leaving home – you get married, or you are dead, and strains of ‘O Sole Mio’ plays lustily, as Angelo moves out of home. Lightning strikes the night he reveals to his parents that he and Nino are more than flat mates, and Mama’s hysteria at the news is announced by hear screams of ‘Homosessuale!’ The humour is played dead straight, and of course the laughs come from the situations, energetic performances and the script simply bursts with wit and honest observations. When Nino’s mother appears in the apartment (defeating a locked door and the security system), she explains simply: “I’m Sicilian!” And who can’t relate to a mother contorting her son’s face until he looks like a bulldog, saying ‘Think of your lover’s big fat mother – that’s how he’s going to end up.’
Much love and attention is invested in each character – from Angelo’s serial-psychiatrist-visiting sister Maria to Nino’s big-haired girlfriend Pina, whose hair is the butt of a great exit-line joke. Casting is spot on, but the heart of the film rests in Paul Sorvino’s hen-pecked husband and Stephanie Vecchio’s bossy Mama who bring laughter and tears through their multi-layered performances. Mambo Italiano is sheer delight: it tickles us where we laugh and touches us where we feel.
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MAMBO ITALIANO (M)
CAST: Luke Kirby, Paul Sorvino, Mary Walsh, Dino Tavarone, Ginette Reno, StephanieVecchio, Claudia Ferri, Peter Miller, Sophie Lorain, Tim Post, Pierrette Robitaille, Michel Perron, Lou Vani
PRODUCER: Denise Robert, Daniel Louis
DIRECTOR: Emile Gaudreault
SCRIPT: Emile Gaudreault, Steve Galluccio (from play by Steve Galluccio)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Serge Ladouceur
EDITOR: Richard Comeau
MUSIC: FM Le Sieur
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Patricia Christie
RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Icon
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 23, 2003
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Warner Home Video