When it comes to portraying the often delicate meanderings of the human heart, Hollywood tends to take a back seat, letting the touchy-feely Italians and kissy-kissy French corner the "nothing much happens" drama market. Unresolved endings and multi-layered relationships are too much like real life, and people hate real life, right?
Then along comes Big Night, an indie film that enjoyed US acclaim, much to the bemusement of fat Hollywood moguls. In short, it's a charming, slightly quaint tale about brotherly angst and top-notch grub. Using foodstuffs as a metaphor, Campbell Scott and Stanley Tucci (co-director, writer and actor) explore Primo and Secondo's differing attitudes to life. Primo is a purist who sees the tradition of Italian food as far more important that pandering to the average American's crude palette; and Secondo knows how close to catastrophe their business is skipping. Big Night is, if you will, The Brothers McMullen with pasta.
So why should you spend your hard-earned moolah on a film that grapples with the thorny issue of whether meatballs or risotto should top the specials menu? Well, it's not going to be for the stunning visuals - Big Night isn't no-brain entertainment (there isn't one gunfight or rampantly improbable sex scene), and neither is it a tear-jerker. In fact, almost one third of the film is devoted to the eponymous occasion - a nosh-up of immense proportions, with a myriad of gastronomic delights prepared and quickly scoffed. Before you know it, you'll be drooling into your popcorn tub, vowing never to eat junk food again.
The real strength of the film lies in its cast. Rossellini shines as Pascal and Secondo's (unknowingly) shared mistress; Holm lights up the screen; and, so sensitive and convincing are Tucci and Shalhoub's performances, you feel like you're eavesdropping rather than passively gawping at the screen.
Big Night isn't wham-bam, snogging entertainment. But expect to leave the cinema with your gastric juices in full flow: you'll head straight for the nearest Italian eaterie and the biggest, beefiest, bechemelest lasagna they've got.