An uptight, conservative, businesswoman accompanies her boyfriend to his eccentric and outgoing family's annual Christmas celebration and finds that she's a fish out of water in their free-spirited way of life.
Sarah Jessica Parker,
An unseen narrator looks back to 1956, on Staten Island, when Buddy, an Italian guy with big dreams, buys a house planning to live upstairs with his wife Estelle and run a bar downstairs. The first problem is Estelle's lack of confidence in Buddy. Then, Irish tenants upstairs refuse to move and won't pay rent; plus, the woman upstairs is about to have a baby. The next problem is the baby: once he's born, it's clear his father was Black. The Irish guy splits; Buddy evicts mother and child, then feels guilt and sets her up in a flat while she sorts out an adoption. Estelle's lack of faith, the Irish lass's spirit, Buddy's dream, racial prejudice, and the baby's fate play out. Written by
It seemed strange to see the decidedly outer-borough "Two Family House" at an expensive Manhattan movie theater, until during the opening credits two old ladies sat in front of me, put their coats on the two seats between them, and proceeded to loudly comment on the proceedings to each other throughout the whole movie.
Much like the friends of the protagonists do in this very sweet yet honest depiction of post-WWII life on Staten Island when an off-islander disrupts the quotidian.
While it drags a bit here and there, and the voice-over narration sometimes re-states the already visually obvious, the very New York characters (including one played by "Pussy" of "The Sopranos") are real people in real situations and realistic traps. This is less schmaltzy than Barry Levinson's Baltimore nostalgia-fests.
Filmed in Staten Island, Jersey City and Bayonne, the settings are accompanied by lovely period music by the John Pizzarelli Trio (who also does a cameo appearance as Julius LaRosa).
This is one of those small, charming indie movies that seems to be a labor of love, like a jewel of a short story.
(originally written 10/14/2000)
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