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Film: MAFIA MAMMA Fun Film With Great Setup And Lead Actresses

FILM REVIEW
MAFIA MAMMA
Rated R
101 Minutes
Released April 14th

The memoir Eat, Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert was published in 2006, remained on the NY Times Best Seller list for 187 weeks, and was made into a film with Julia Roberts in 2010. It’s the story of the author’s quest to find herself by traveling to Italy, India, and Indonesia to find a balance in her life. A common criticism of the book is that “Gilbert’s journey is too neat” and that her experiences leave out the messy, awkward, unresolved details of her real life.” If you have read that novel, or even if you’ve heard people discussing it ad infinitum, you may understand what inspired Toni Colette, producer and star of Mafia Mamma to make her new movie. Gilbert’s book is referenced more than once in Mafia Mamma. So, I believe that Colette and her team set out to put the mess back in the memoir. 

The plot of Mafia Mamma is a great setup: devoted American Mom is notified that her grandfather in Italy, whom she’s never met, has passed away and, in his will, he designates her as the new boss of the Italian mob he runs. It’s a combination of a fish-out-of-water comedy, an essay on the male/female dynamic, and a video game-style use of bloody detached body parts at every opportunity. It’s a spoof on every overdone romance novel where an American divorcee goes abroad to find herself. 

Toni Colette Is that rare actor who could believably play anything or anyone, from a toddler in diapers to a wizened centenarian, from a librarian to a serial killer. She is an ageless chameleon, and always fascinating. She consistently plays characters outside of her own age. Her turn as “Kristin” in this movie is perfectly over-the-top yet believable.

Starring with Colette is the incomparable Monica Bellucci as “Bianca.” Bellucci is Colette’s Italian counterpart as an ageless phenomenon. In watching them interact, you will find that age has no bearing on their characters. Bellucci started modeling in 1977 to pay her way through college in Italy and soon booked commercials, then made her film debut in 1992 in Bram Stoker’s Dracula as “Dracula’s Bride.” She is fluent in five languages and is the oldest actress to ever play a “Bond Girl” (in Spectre.) In Mafia Mamma she steals every scene she’s in.

Colette and Bellucci are the only actors who are familiar to US audiences. The rest of the cast are Italian actors or unknowns. This ensemble is excellent, however. They are all colorful characters, especially Eduardo Scarpetta as “Fabrizio,” Dora Romano as “Aunt Esmeralda” and Francesco Mastroianni as “Aldo.”

The screenplay could have been tighter, with better setups for the comedy and action. The story loses its flow here and there, partly because the cast and crew are having so much fun. I would like to have seen more of Kristin’s background as an overprotective “Mom/Housewife,” to make the personality transition more remarkable once she gets to Italy. The establishing shots of Rome and the Italian countryside give you a bonus travelogue. There is a lot of graphic action as this is also a parody of violent blockbuster thrillers. Although Mafia Mamma is certainly not an awards-contender film, you can sit back and have a good time watching these unique characters bumble through a cross between The Three Stooges and The Godfather.

Kathryn Whitney Boole has spent most of her life in the entertainment industry, which has been the backdrop for remarkable adventures with extraordinary people.  She is a Talent Manager with Studio Talent Group in Santa Monica. kboole@gmail.com.

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