In a world of prestige cinema vs. blockbuster superheroes, is it so wrong to just sit back and enjoy some frivolity overlooking the Italian countryside? Can’t we simply enjoy a low-stakes movie that’s not going to be nominated for an Oscar but also won’t be immediately resigned to the depths of Tubi? Is there not a place for mid-ranged fare that exists solely to entertain and allow a means of escape? If ever there was an example of such a film, it’s MAFIA MAMMA.
Written by Amanda Sthers, J. Michael Feldman, and Debbie Jhoon, and directed by Catherine Bigelow, the film centers on Kristin, an unsatisfied woman and all-around people-pleaser who finds herself at a stage in her life where the people she’s taken care of are no longer around. When her estranged grandfather dies in Italy, she’s whisked away to manage his affairs abroad. Little does she know his affairs dabbled in more than just owning a massive estate and vintnering. The film is no masterpiece, but, honestly, it isn’t meant to be. It’s fun and funny and pretty to look at. Is that so bad?
International treasure Toni Collette stars a Kristin, returning to her MURIEL’S WEDDING-esque dark comedy roots, and here reminding us that she can do more than cry on cue and be repeatedly snubbed for Oscar nominations. (Yeah, I said it!) She’s openly admitted she’s wanted to return to comedy following a long string of one emotionally draining project after another, so why not make a movie set and filmed against the beautiful backdrop of Italy? Her portrayal of a woman seeking simple pleasures such as gelato, homemade pasta, and good sex is welcome and refreshing. Julia Roberts, Eat/Pray/Love your heart out! Monica Bellucci as Bianca is sultry and bold, if a bit over the top. Eduardo Scarpetta as Fabrizio is unpredictable and sexy. Francesco Mastroianni and Alfonso Perugini play Aldo and Dante, Kristin’s bumbling bodyguards, carrying most of the comedic heavy lifting throughout the film.
Speaking of: the movie is humorous, but seldom funny. That’s fine because it’s also never boring. At times, the pacing is unbalanced—there’s a second ending that, while satisfying, comes as a surprise in terms of necessity. Also, for being a movie about the Italian mafia, it features some pretty low-stakes, uninteresting action sequences. However, with all its flaws and its completely improbable premise, it’s refreshingly feminist, fun, and likable and features refreshingly feminist, fun, and likable characters. That may be its strongest attribute.
All in all, MAFIA MAMMA is like sitting down to a big bowl of pasta… of the store-bought variety. It’s not as good as homemade, but it’ll work in a pinch.