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1 item from 1998

Film review: 'Polish Wedding' An All-American 'Polish Wedding' / Olin, Byrne, Danes blend right into Connelly's directorial debut

20 January 1998 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

PARK CITY, Utah -- It's not baseball, apple pie or Chevrolet, but few things are more American than a story about a working-class, Polish immigrant family in Detroit. In Theresa Connelly's directorial debut, which premiered over the weekend at the Sundance Film Festival, "Polish Wedding" takes the audience back to her hometown and its ethnic roots. Its homespun simplicity and family values are refreshing and will undoubtedly play well in Detroit and elsewhere.

Typical first-generation immigrants, the Pzoniaks take a first cut at the American dream as a multiple-income, extended family. Papa (Gabriel Byrne) brings home a slice of bacon as a baker; Mama (Lena Olin) and daughter-in-law perform janitorial duties at a local factory; three grown sons get to play with an 18-wheeler for a living. While elder family members work, the only daughter (Claire Danes), a high school dropout, babysits a nephew as her prepubescent brother puffs on cigarettes in the basement.

The story evolves around the smart, strong, sultry matriarch, played perfectly by Olin, and her daughter, the beautiful Danes as Hala, who looks as virginal as she is seductive. Indeed, the local priest, naive to her reputation, picks Hala to play Mother Mary in the May Day procession. Like mother, like daughter, the Pzoniak women have a tendency to exercise their feminine charms when the Pzoniak men aren't looking. For these professed Roman Catholics, infidelities are sacraments to the self-proclaimed religion of "making love and life."

In keeping with the film's childbirth theme, Connelly's characters mark personal growth in little steps and forge familial bonds through a series of mistakes. With these subjects, her style is predictably maternal. In Connelly's nursing hands, the film is sweet but borders on sappy. The international cast and crew do a superlative job portraying the Pzoniaks as an all-American family. Byrne, as the immigrant baker, looks and acts as if he just got off the boat.

The production designer, Kara Lindstrom, deserves praise for creating the Pzoniak house with its pickle-jar pantry for confessional and its basement, where the family's real and psychic laundry take a bath.


Credits: Producers: Tom Rosenberg, Julia Chasman, Geoff Stier; Director-screenwriter: Theresa Connelly; Executive producers: Nich Wechsler, Sijurjon Sighvatsoon, Ted Tannebaum; Director of photography: Guy Dufaux; Editors: Curtis Clayton, Suzanne Fenn; Production designer: Kara Lindstrom; Music: Luis Bacalov. Cast: Jadzia Pzoniak: Lena Olin; Bolek Pzoniak: Gabriel Byrne; Hala Pzoniak: Claire Danes; Russell Schuster: Adam Trese; Sofie Pzoniak: Mili Avital; Ziggy Pzoniak: Daniel Lapaine; Roman: Rade Serbedzija. No MPAA rating. Running time -- 100 minutes. Color/stereo.


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