Going back home can be hard, particularly when you come from a traditional Italian family, and especially when the girlfriend you bring back is not Italian. But the roof caves in when she's...
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Legend says that Antonio Bay was built in 1880 with blood money obtained from shipwrecked lepers but no one believes it. On the eve of the town's centennial many plan to attend the celebrations, including the murdered lepers.
Jamie Lee Curtis,
Going back home can be hard, particularly when you come from a traditional Italian family, and especially when the girlfriend you bring back is not Italian. But the roof caves in when she's African American. This is the problem that Anthony faces when he brings Alissa from Los Angeles to his boyhood home of Providence, Rhode Island to attend his grandfather's funeral. Written by
Weissman/Delson Communications (with permission)
"Who was that colored girl?" . . . "Lionel's sister?"
"A Wake in Providence" is the Italian-American version of "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?" Aspiring actor Tony Gelati (Vincent Pagano) and paralegal girlfriend Alissa (Victoria Rowell) travel from Los Angeles to Providence, Rhode Island to attend the funeral of Tony's grandfather and to introduce Alissa to his family. A complication is that Tony has never told his traditional Sicilian relatives (the Gelati-Baldassarre clan) that Alissa's heritage is African-American. Now the family really has nothing against Alissa or black folks in general. But the relations (and culture) are ethnocentric Italians (except for the adopted Korean boy Nicky who is nonetheless culturally Italian), and folks tend to marry those of the same heritage. In addition they tell it as it is. So when Tony introduces Alissa there is anxiety, although his brother and aunt are open-minded. Things come to froth when an upset Alissa accuses Tony of being ashamed of their relationship. Tony is not ashamed, but as he initially does not stand up for her he is misunderstood. In reality Tony is anxious about his family's reaction, and he wants their approval of the relationship.
What is unusual is that the protagonist Tony is not really presented as gallant until the denouement. "A Wake in Providence" is a romantic comedy, not a drama. Although the movie satirizes stereotypes, it seems to emphasize them brazenly. For example, note the portrayals of the attractive, but over-sexed, Italian girlfriends, Gina DiFonzo (Michele Maika) and Connie (Leigh Allyn Baker). Lisa Raggio as Claudia, who is almost insane, still uses corporal punishment on her two sons. The two cousins, played by John Mariano and co-scripter Billy Van Zandt, are ludicrous ("mooks" says the Nicky the Korean). Nevertheless the acting and comedy are fine. Adrienne Barbeau plays the cool, hard-drinking liberal Aunt Lidia very well. She too has a bit of a secret. Victoria Rowell does a great job as the beleaguered but dignified Alissa. Mike Pagano, Vincent's real life brother, plays his brother Frankie. Frankie, although initially surprised, is supportive of the couple. He has a secret that he reveals at dinner time. Kaye Kingston as the new widow, Gram Baldassarre, seems a bit over-expressive although she is humorous. Jerry Vale has a cameo as the suave singer, Buddy Verona. The cross- dressing scene around the 70-minute mark adds nothing to the movie. But the story line moves well and there are plenty of laughs throughout. The implication at the end is that the family will improve.
On-location filming is always a plus. Locals will easily recognize such landmarks as the "Pineapple" on Federal Hill, the "Superman" Building in downtown Providence, Camille's Restaurant, St. Mary's Church, and TF Green Airport. There are glimpses of Rhode Island fare, such as Del's Lemonade. This not-generally known feature, filmed in 1999, was not widely distributed until 2005.
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