Primo and Secondo are two brothers who have emigrated from Italy to open an Italian restaurant in America. Primo is the irascible and gifted chef, brilliant in his culinary genius, but determined not to squander his talent on making the routine dishes that customers expect. Secondo is the smooth front-man, trying to keep the restaurant financially afloat, despite few patrons other than a poor artist who pays with his paintings. The owner of the nearby Pascal's restaurant, enormously successful (despite its mediocre fare), offers a solution - he will call his friend, a big-time jazz musician, to play a special benefit at their restaurant. Primo begins to prepare his masterpiece, a feast of a lifetime, for the brothers' big night... Written by
Tad Dibbern <DIBBERN_D@a1.mscf.upenn.edu>
Primo, Tony Shalhoub's name in Big Night, translates as "First". Secondo, 'Stanley Tucci''s character, translates as "Second". This relates to their birth order in the film. It is briefly referenced in the Cadillac scene when Secondo meets Bob (the car salesman played by Campbell Scott). (Additionally, Shalhoub's character in The Impostors (1998) was named Voltri, First Mate - a possible reference to Primo.) See more »
In the final scene of the "big night" dinner the wine bottles across the table and in the kitchen with Secondo all have the trademark pink DOCG label on the bottle stem. The DOCG pink label was released in Italy only in the 1990s; the movie is set much earlier. See more »
[offers a taste asking opinion in Italian]
Not too fine, eh? Sometimes you cut it too fine, then all you taste is the garlic!
See more »
Big Night is a peaceful joy to watch because its themes and the overall feeling of the film is so normal. The characters, so beautifully rich, are realistic and so are their problems. The characters are mainly wonderfully, infectiously bombastic Italians, and entire scenes are sometimes constructed of the process of making Italian food from scratch. The subtlety and unaffronting reality of these qualities are so endearing to me. In fact, the scene that leaves an imprint on me more than any of the others, despite how fun it is to see the actors have a blast playing fiery, thick-mustachioed men with heavy Italian accents, is a scene that hardly has a connection with any of the others. An Italian ballad is playing over the soundtrack through the previous scene and continues into this scene, wherein Marc Anthony, playing a low-level restaurant bus boy, a small, quiet, incidental character, begins dancing with himself as he mops the floor of the restaurant. When other characters enter, the music, coming from nowhere but the film's soundtrack itself, cuts off and he continues mopping the floor as if the dancing never happened. It's so touching for that scene to have been slipped in, giving a person who is only against the background of everyone's lives a dreamy, sensitive personality that he keeps to himself.
The focal point of the film is the chemistry between the characters of Stanley Tucci, playing a hard-working, pleading, frustrated restaurant owner, whose head carries only logic and a goal for success, and Tony Shalhoub, his brother, whose aggressive passion is for the food he cooks and the mystery and subtext within it, yet his interaction with people is painfully shy. Their clashes of pride, their battles with each other's completely different perspectives, and yet their sharing of the same dream are what drives the story.
A lot of the film's humor comes from the hilarity of Ian Holm. Ian Holm, a stiff-limbed Englishman, plays here a loud, very animated, hot-tempered Italian entrepreneur with a seamless and wonderfully entertaining delivery of an Italian accent and Italian movements. It's my favorite performance of his because I had never before imagined that he would play a role like this.
Big Night is not a masterpiece nor do I think it was even meant to be one, but what it is is subtle and interesting for purely human reasons. It's soundtrack is also a fantastic celebration of Italian music.
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