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85 of 90 found the following review helpful:
You CAN smell the food while watching Jun 18, 2003
By R. J. Marsella
This is a beautiful movie on a number of levels. As many reviewers have noted already the Italian cooking and the scenes in the kitchen will have you craving a fine Italian dinner as soon as you finish watching.
Beyond the food this is a fine film with a very touching story involving two immigrant brothers who are extremely close despite their obvious personality differences. The tension between the brothers builds as they attempt to salvage their struggling restaurant business. Primo (Tony Shalhoub)the older brother has an artistic temperment and that applies to his uncompromising approach to cooking and cuisine. His brother,Secondi(Staney Tucci), has more material ambitions and is manipulated by a competing restauratnt owner into an ill-advised attempt to publicise their restaurant by having an elaborate dinner party for singer Louie Prima. Hence the film revolves around preparations for THE BIG NIGHT.
The climax has the conflict between the brothers break out into the open and the film ends with a beautiful sequence in the kitchen where there is a silent reconcilliation.
The story is set in a New Jersey shore town in the 1950's. The period is captured beautifully with big-finned Cadilacs cruising down the main street and the women's fashions are right on the money. The soundtrack is absolutely fabulous with cuts from Rosemary Clooney, Louie Prima and some lesser known Italian recording artists.
Both Shalhoub and Tucci are excellent in thei roles and the supporting cast is very good as well.
Overall I highly reccomend both the film and the soundtrack.
38 of 39 found the following review helpful:
What a delight - but eat before you watch it Mar 02, 2004
By D. Wolf
Eat before you watch this movie; otherwise, you'll end up painfully hungry and go stuff yourself with every bit of Italian food you can lay your hands on.
This is a simple story of two brothers struggling to fulfill their dreams - one to be a "success" in America; the other to be a great Italian chef.
Realizing the dreams of the first brother hinges on the success of one important meal depends on the skill of the second - and forces outside their control.
Tucci, Shaloub, Holm and company all give wonderful performances. There's no showing off by the many successful actors who are in this movie - they all just do a great job.
The climax of the movie is the banquet scene, and it's going to make you hungry and want to get up and dance.
The final scene which lasts for several minutes with the only dialog being one line - "are you hungry" - wraps up the movie nicely, and shows what a good director and actors can do when both understand the power of subtlety.
This is one fun movie - lots of laughs, amazing food, and a great soundtrack.
37 of 38 found the following review helpful:
Wonderful "Little Film" -- So-So DVD May 20, 2004
By Scott Schiefelbein
Stanley Tucci, as actor, co-writer, and co-director (with Campbell Scott, who also plays a pitch-perfect small part as a car salesman), deserves a great deal of the credit for this small, intimate, delightful film. But the film resonates because it got so many of the little touches right, from the ensemble cast to the soundtrack to the editing to the cinematography. So there is a lot of credit to go around.
Tucci plays Secondo, the aptly named younger of two Italian brothers who have emigrated to New Jersey from the Old Country. Secondo is the entrepreneur, the guy who wants the big Cadillac. Primo (Tony Shahloub), the older brother, is the magician of a chef. Primo is so good, in fact, that his culinary masterpieces go over the heads of the good folks of New Jersey. When contemplating a wonderful seafood risotto, a diner complains that she can't see the seafood, and that her desired side of spaghetti doesn't come with meatballs (inspiring the wonderful line, "Sometimes spaghetti wants to be alone").
Primo bemoans the fact that he is serving food to Philistines, but the sad fact is that most of the Philistines are eating across the street at Pascal's restaurant. Pascal, played with great zest by Ian Holm, knows that you have to give the customer what he wants -- even if it is culinary sacrilege. The contrasts between the restaurants, from the colors to the lighting to the clientele, could not be more staggering!
Secondo laments to Pascal of his financial woes, but refuses Pascal's (repeated) offer to come work for him. Pascal, being a big-hearted guy, tells Secondo to pull of a "big night," with no holds barred. Pascal will invite his good friend, Louis Prima, who will come, eat, and love Secondo's restaurant. Then, the people will come.
So the story builds to the big night (a side plot regarding Secondo's tortured love life notwithstanding), which is where the movie really takes off.
Organizing the banquet scene into courses, "Big Night" revels in the wonders that can only be brought about by great cooking. The cast has a difficult task -- how do you emote rapture without going over the top? The ensemble cast, which includes Isabella Rosselini, Minnie Driver, and Allison Janney, nails this task just right. The cooking scenes are also hectic and impressive without going over the top, too.
Following the big night, many truths are revealed, perhaps because it is impossible to deceive after having such a wondrous experience. If this film doesn't move you, or inspire you to get thee hence to an Italian restaurant, you have no heart!
But again, the heart of the movie is its dedication to the small touches. From Primo using his cup to tamp down his espresso grounds to the making of a simple omelet, this movie gets it all just right.
The DVD does not have much to offer as far as extras go. What it does have is one heck of little film.
33 of 36 found the following review helpful:
feast of the heart Aug 21, 2005
By Shelley Gammon
"Big Night" is more than just a film about food, it's about heart, brotherhood and the American Dream. Primo (Tony Shalhoub) and Secundo (Stanley Tucci) are Italian brothers struggling to make their small restaurant a success. Secondo (called "Seco" for short) is thankful to be in the United States. His English is strong and he sees America as the land of opportunity. His brother Primo is an artist with food - an amazing talent who is so passionate about food, he refers to the lackluster menu of the restaurant across the street as the "rape of cuisine." And he's not kidding when he says it, either.
Seco may have been born in Italy, but he's always been an American in his heart. He understands the culture and knows that you have to give Americans what they want. Primo is insulted by the reprobate palate of their backwards clientele and refuses to compromise.
Many plots intertwine... Seco's romance with Phyllis (Minnie Driver) contrasted with his affair with Gabriella (the stunningly gorgeous Isabella Rosellini), and the sword of Damocles hanging over their heads - the impending foreclosure of their restaurant.
Primo and Secondo have one last shot at success as an impending visit by Jazz performer Louis Prima promises to put their little piece of Italy on the map.
Ian Holm plays their nemesis, Pascal, a competing restaurateur who admires Primo's talents and has no qualms about ruining the lives of his fellow Italian-Americans in the spirit of not-so-friendly competition.
Everything hinges on the big night - where their friends and some of the local "who's who" muckety-mucks experience Primo's genius. One course after another and with sexual inuendos, those who are feasting moan in delight. As the dessert tray approaches, the bloated guests get ready to undo their pants to stuff themselves even more.
In the end, the big night is truly a big event, but just another night. The real story is the love of these two brothers. They drive each other crazy, but they love one another. Nothing ends up in a neat, tidy little bow in the end - just like real life, Primo and Seco have no idea what tomorrow may bring for them, but they will face it together.
As a DVD, this is pretty underwhelming. The menu looks like it was it was drawn by Stevie Wonder and other than a trailer and an option for subtitles, there are no features worth writing home about. I have a 7-year-old DVD player and still, the DVD looks great on my HDTV, even without progressive scan or up-converting.
I would have liked to have seen interviews with the cast and directors... but as a film, it was a delight to watch.
19 of 20 found the following review helpful:
Unforgettable... Jan 27, 2006
Good films are unforgettable... and here's one. On the surface it's a quirky little story about two Italian brothers running a restaurant in New Jersey in the 1950's. One is ridiculously passionate about cooking superb food while the other tries to make his brother's passion commercially viable despite the fact that customers don't want what he cooks. Both are up against their more successful Italian neighbour who gives the customers exactly what they want. Not much then... but it's what goes on beneath this deceptively simple tale that makes it so good.
The tense, sincere and often very funny interactions between the two brothers are so believable that they make you really want them to succeed with the "Big Night" on which the future of their restaurant and their relationship depends. Against this background, the preparation of the dishes themselves becomes an all-consuming event, infused with the drama and expectation of a chef in full flight cooking, of necessity, the meal of his life. And, the subtle plot with its inevitable denouement is understated and, as a result, extremely effective.
Brilliantly acted, charming and, in the end, quite moving, "Big Night" is a superbly reflective exploration into the dreams & hopes of two immigrants in an alien world where their values don't apply and where this threatens to destroy the most important relationship they have. Over-hyped on its release and now increasingly forgotten it's an unmissable gem of a film.
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