Household Saints (1993) Poster

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Tragedy and Comedy
Peter Ingestad10 February 2005
This complex and exceptionally intelligent film about two - or even three - generations of Italian-American women, makes you laugh, makes you cry. Splendid play by Lili Taylor, and Tracey Ullman is great as well. The main theme of the film is the relation of these women to love, and to to their Catholic faith about which this film has much to say, doing so in a rather ironic, yet loving and understanding way. Precisely this mode of detached but understansing irony is general mood of the film: the burlesque and the sentimental is mixed and fused together into an expressive unity, free of contradiction and dissonance: a feat very very rarely achieved by any director. So, in short, and quite simply, this is one of the finest movies I have ever seen.
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Lost Treasure
angie-p-ballard19 May 2004
I fell upon this movie while searching for D'Onofrio's work. I quickly realized that this "little known" film is a gem of a movie. D'Onofrio, Ullman, Taylor and Malina all deliver a brilliant performance by making the characters alive and believable. It is the kind of move that draws you into their living room, making you part of the scene. You feel their joy and pain as the stories told.

It doesn't matter if your Greek, Jewish, Irish, or Italian, you begin to see your own families heritage and culture unfold. As a second generation Italian-American Catholic, it brought back a flood of memories of tradition, grandparents, family gatherings, superstition, and the struggle to assimilate in America.

Household Saints didn't get its share of publicity and the actors/actress didn't get the recognition they deserved for their brilliant performances.
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StephanieGould8 October 2003
"Household Saints" is one of the best movies that I have seen. With an all-star cast including Tracy Ulman, Vincent D'Onofrio, and Lili Taylor. The only odd thing about this movie is that D'Onofrio plays Taylor's father in this movie. Four years earlier he played her fiancee in "Mystic Pizza" it just seemed odd at first, but then the performances overshadow the odd-casting choice. I seemed to be engrossed by the plot and the performances which were brilliant! Great movie!
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I Believe It!
JRabbit3 January 1999
As a Catholic and graduate of a Catholic grammar school, this movie was particularly nostalgic. While I never knew anyone whose faith was quite as strong as Lili Taylor's character, I was indoctrinated in "Saint Lore". Lili Taylor was perfectly believable as the serene beautified girl who loves Jesus and is visited by him under ordinary circumstances. Lili Taylor's smile and calmness would be a great joy and comfort to anyone. Yes, I bought the movie in its entirety and cannot find a critical word to offer. If other viewers find joy in organized religion, this is the movie for believers regardless of faith. Also, If you like Lili Taylor's work, you will not be disappointed.
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A Nice Surprise
VelvetUnderpants6 April 2005
I first saw this movie in a small "art theater" with a friend. I found it deeper than expected, funnier than expected and an all around enjoyable movie.

It was a nice surprise to find a small film that spoke so largely about life and what it (life) means to us individually. One need not be catholic or Christian, Italian or ethnic to appreciate the layers of understanding and perspective that the characters birth on-screen.

For myself, and my friend, it opened a dialog. We related to the characters in different ways. As we shared what we experienced, we learned that we wanted to see the film again. I wanted to see what she had seen, and she wanted to see what I had seen. We did agree on one thing: We both found the film to be a jewel.
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Lili Taylor, just short of marvelous
rness-19 June 2002
The film itself was a bit sentimental; however, the performance given by Lili Taylor, convinced me that she rates as a major actor. I was particularly impressed with her hospital bed scene, when she quietly confronted her father about his losing a Pinochle game that resulted in his having to marry her mother.
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Great Multi-Generational Tale of Italian-Americans
elfry829 January 1999
This movie is an absolutely superb tale about family life for Italian-American Catholics. It starts out at the tale of how one man wins the hand in marriage of another man's daughter in a pinochle game, and continues in twists and turns to compel any audience watching it right up until the movie's end. Subtle metaphors teach us lessons about life and Tracy Ullman in what is no doubt the greatest performance of her movie career shows us that she has a range none of us knew before. A great film.
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See it!
evraymer22 October 2002
I was so impressed by this film when I saw it at the Festival of Festivals (now the Toronto International Film Festival) in 1993 that I went home without seeing anything else. I would recommend it to any spiritual person. The film's saint is Saint Therese of Lisieux, who once said "What matters in life is not great deeds, but great love." After her death, she promised to "let fall a shower of roses," which is pivotal in the film. I really recommend it. A wonderful work by an American director.
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one of my favorites
android-816 July 2000
I have seen this film several times on Bravo. The cast is great. Tracy Ullman is quite good in dramatic roles. Very charming scene where a British Jesus visits a girl while she's ironing.I'm not a Catholic or even a believer but I found the character of Theresa being a saint quite credible.
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flipped generation gaps
Lee Eisenberg23 April 2007
Not just another movie about Italian-Americans, "Household Saints" portrays three generations in a family, culminating in the granddaughter (Lili Taylor) getting obsessed with Jesus to the extremest extent. That seems a little antithetical - to me, at least - as I usually expect the older generations to be more religious than the younger generations to reject it. But don't get me wrong; I recommend this movie, at the very least as a look at the vicissitudes of family life. Nancy Savoca has shown that she does a great job when casting Lili Taylor, with this one and "Dogfight". Also starring Tracey Ullman, Vincent D'Onofrio and Michael Imperioli (of "The Sopranos").
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DoctorScarlettJones10 June 2006
Warning: Spoilers
It's a miracle when a small film gets made and it's not some self-absorbed piece of trash nor too artsy to have a broader appeal. This film walks the fine line between banality and boring.

Even if you aren't religious, you can get something out of this film. It really speaks to the power of faith and love, as well as the dangers of desire both expressed and repressed. It speaks of the depth of despair and how each of us deals with it. I am inclined to read the book from which it was derived.

Every performance is delightful and as a Vincent D'Onofrio fan it was a joy to see him in a "normal" character for a change. I did find it amusing that he played Lily Taylor's father in this film and few years earlier played her boyfriend.

I just want to say that the honeymoon scene is well worth it for any fan girrrrls of D'Onofrio, which I am a rabid one. He looks great and plays the horny gentle butcher to perfection, as he does every part he plays.

Watch this film even if you aren't a fan of some of the actors.
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Shocked that there are only two (2) reviews of this film here...
aciolino4 August 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Tempted to ascribe this to the films lack of distribution around the country but I'm not sure.

Even so, stars like Ullman and Taylor, who both have cult like followings should have brought greater interest which should be reflected here.

Nevertheless, this is a thoughtful, odd, unpredictable, and quite profound film. You may be bored at times, or disgusted at others, or dismissive even more. But it all works as a whole. Much of this success is owed to the extraordinary cast, really top flight.

I don't know if this is the film that really launched Lily Taylor to the wider audiences but it certainly worked for me. I have yet to see a finer screen performance by an Amercian actress that what Ms. Taylor gives us here.

Well worth seeing.
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Cheer me up
DomiMMHS17 August 1999
I just wanted to say, that I personally, as a Christian, can only *survive* this movie by believing that it was not intended to actually be Jesus. I admit that it would be nice for Teresa (Lili Taylor). But you know, I think the idea of seeing Jesus on the screen is scary too me, as far as my understanding of my faith is, I can't help feeling offended having Him made an element of a fantasy story. It's difficult for me to deal with this kind of vivid imagination and also many other people might be disturbed. Last thing I wanna do is judge people who create those stories, I just can't relate to them in any way. I don't know how Faith and portraying Him on the screen can actually mix.

So for me it was a pity that they had to tell the story this way. Because it all started off so good. The movie has a great atmosphere from the beginning. I felt sorry when Tracey Ullman painted the walls in this crass yellow and took away this flair of Italian kitchen. I enjoyed most moments of the strange marriage of Tracey and Vincent D'Onofrio and I basically could buy their daughter's story, too. Though I think we've seen that story quite too often, most notably in "Mermaids", where I was more comfortable with it.

When I started to feel disturbed by the story, what cheered me up were Tracey and Vincent as the aging married couple. That was the ultimate prize, just grand!
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Unbelievable, pointless, claptrap
There are two movies here. The first half is a simple, charming tale of a young Italian American butcher, his courtship and early marriage to the girl next door. The second movie starts when their daughter is born. The couple drop from sight and the focus is now on the daughter. That is why it seems like two separate movies. The daughter is inexplicably obsessed by religious ideas and personages. Things start to happen that are just plain bizarre and the movie loses its charm. Not a comedy. Not a drama. Hard to classify movies that have no point. I guess we could call it a "strange story" movie.
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A Charming and Romantic Love Story,but bizarre ending!
Xeresa628 May 2006
Warning: Spoilers
The first half of the story charmed me. I'm a Vincent D'Onofrio fan and this brought out the best parts of his acting throughout the movie. He never struck a false note and was totally believable. Tracy Ullman was also first-rate as the puzzled object of Joseph Santangelo's affections. The only flaw in the ointment in the first half was Joseph Santangelo's ignorant, half-mad mother,Carmela, who tries to sabotage Joseph's courtship and later his marriage to the vulnerable Cathrine. Judith Malina played the mother-in-law with a superstitious viciousness that made me want to give her the evil eye! I also must praise the acting of Michael Rispoli as Nicky Falconetti, a troubled and sensitive soul, yearning to have a great love in his life and fixated on the opera Madam Butterfly. His gradual descent into alcoholism and suicidal despair is heart-breaking. The second half of the movie adds a discordant note to what was up to then a beautiful love story. Joseph and Cathrine's daughter has obviously inherited the schizophrenic tendencies of her late grandmother. A clue is given when Cathrine sees her daughter ending her hunger strike in the kitchen and has a momentary image of her mother-in-law Carmela standing at the stove where her daughter should be. Her grandmother Carmela use to see her dead husband Vincenzo speaking to her in her living room, while young Teresa ends up desiring a saint's crown of martyrdom and ultimately sees a vision of Jesus in her living room Vincent D'Onofrio and Tracy Ullman are completely believable as the worried and unhappy parents trying to cope with an increasingly disturbed only child. They made the transition from young lovers to devoted, middle-aged couple credible, and their scenes with their daughter in the mental hospital and later at the funeral seemed so vividly real. Vincent D'Onofrio was especially moving in these scenes! The ending scene with the older couple(who are they suppose to be?) who were supposedly telling the story about Joseph,Cathrine, and Teresa made no sense to me as one of the kids knocks over a drink and they remove the picnic tablecloth to cut off the view from the camera. That was really dumb symbolism on somebody's part!
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Flawed and quirky
EA9 June 2006
After encountering Vincent D'Onofrio in "Bark" for the first time, I had to get another film in which he was in, just to see what kind of an actor could be. He was so awful in "Bark" that I had to get another of his films just to figure out how he gets parts. My opinion didn't improve, D'Onofrio is sadly an extremely poor actor, but the story line of "Household Saints" was hysterically funny, so I was glad I got the film. Guess D'Onofrio is also laughing all the way to the bank. Wonder how he gets the parts he does? He is soooo bad!

Taylor (Teresa) and Ullman (Cathrine) played their parts fairly well.

The Italian American culture is fairly well captured except for the grandmother. She was way over the top caricature. Been around the culture my entire life and I've not encountered a Carmela Santangelo (grandmother), ever.

Jesus was a humdinger... Physiologically the wrong continent and with an English accent and concerned with his wardrobe? Could not stop laughing.

What was the point of Nicky Falconetti's character and Madame Butterfly? Another aspect of guilt. This time real guilt vs. imagined or made up by the church, guilt.

Didn't figure out whether Nancy Savoca (director) was making fun of the Catholic church and the psychological damage it creates for sensitive and impressionable people (especially around sex) or if she was seriously looking at sainthood in the 60s. Liked that, kept me wondering.

She did make some very poignant digs at the Catholic church, especially through D'Onofrio's mouth.

"Household Saints" is flawed and quirky but well worth my time and maybe yours.
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