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1 item from 2003

Friends and Family

16 May 2003 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Regent Entertainment

A droll Mafia-movie sendup, "Friends and Family" centers on a lavish deception by a debonair gay Manhattanite who hasn't come out to his parents -- as a mob enforcer. Greg Lauren and Christopher Gartin ably lead an amiable cast of newcomers and seasoned pros, portraying devoted partners in life and crime who pose as caterers, eagerly abetted in their scheme by the Sicilian family for which they serve as trusted lieutenants.

The script by Joseph Triebwasser economically unfolds the rich setup but doesn't fully mine its comic potential, content to play gently with types rather than delve into characters. Nonetheless, this painless, sweet comedy could cook up niche action among the "gays and grays" distributor Regency is targeting when it opens May 16 in Los Angeles before a rollout into other markets.

Culture clash looms over the sophisticated Patrizzi clan, headed by the even-tempered Victor (Tony Lo Bianco), as two sets of Midwestern parents prepare to descend on New York. The Torcellis are visiting son Stephen (Lauren) and his boyfriend, Danny (Gartin), while Patrizzi daughter Jenny (Rebecca Creskoff) and her fiance Brian Lane Green) await the arrival of his folks.

Beth Fowler and, especially, Frank Pellegrino are believable as the intrusive Mrs. Torcelli and her mild-mannered husband. The Jennings, on the other hand, are a cartoonish whitebread duo who secretly lead a ragtag right-wing militia and who seize upon the trip to the Big Bad Apple as an opportunity to wage war against the "occupying federal army." Tovah Feldshuh is the unlikely leader of the plot, overdoing the comic shtick as the mom/mastermind who's perpetually exasperated with her inept husband (Patrick Collins).

The funniest mom here is the fierce Patrizzi matriarch (long-time-no-see Anna Maria Alberghetti). Unwilling to accept the truth about her sons (Danny Mastrogiorgio and Lou Carbonneau) -- straight men with talents for cooking and clothing design but no taste for the family business -- Stella repeatedly tries to convince her husband of their toughness.

Over Stella's objections, the Patrizzi sons are put to work preparing an extravagant dinner party to celebrate Stephen's father's birthday, with the family's brawny hit men enlisted as waiters for the central couple's phantom catering company. A friend of Stephen and Danny's (an exuberant Edward Hibbert) promptly begins coaching the wiseguys -- not in table service but in "The Sound of Music", Liz Taylor's marriages and other essential knowledge for any self-respecting gay man.

There's something deliriously fresh about the collision of queens, mobsters and white supremacists, but rather than igniting in comic sparks, they meet mildly. Debuting film director Kristen Coury has a feel for interpersonal dynamics but is less confident when staging larger groups, and the hoped-for hilarity doesn't quite materialize in the climactic sequence, which forgoes friction in favor of the familiar.

As the loving couple who know their way around automatic weapons but haven't a clue about spatulas, Lauren and Gartin are appealing and, with Lo Bianco and Pellegrino, come off best here for not trying too hard. The low-budget pic's production values are fine overall, with the exception of harsh, distracting lighting in early scenes. »

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1 item from 2003

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