An American film about Italians set during the 1950's in New Jersey with no mafia gangsters may sound impossible but Big Night proves otherwise . Set in a small family restaurant out of cash and on the brink of bankruptcy this film is charming yet manages to address meaningful themes. About relationships, compromises, what the American dream means and how much one is willing to give up to attain said dream all come down to one Big Night.
The basic plot involves two brothers, Primo the cook, Secondo the front of house of man and their traditional Italian restaurant Paradise. Primo the uncompromising artist who loves what he does and Secondo the business man who loves the thought of Cadillacs provide an interesting contrast of character. Secondo is a suave ladies man while Primo is bashful. Both men believe the product they offer is excellent but Secondo might be persuaded to change in order to attract more customers. A competing eatery selling Americanized Italian fare is packed to the brim as a rule. While Paradises' customers are ether in love with the place but poor or unable to appreciate the subtle perfection of Primo's work. A big party is to be thrown in the hopes of turning things around and saving the business. The patronage of a popular musician may be what it takes to create the buzz.
Sub-plots involve the grand themes of opera. love, lust, greed, betrayal and family ties are all touched upon. Minnie driver, Isabella Rossellini and xxxxxxxxxxx all splendidly play female compliments to the male central characters. The soundtrack is as vibrant as Primos' food must taste but as Americanized as Secondo's dreams.
I found Big Night to be very entertaining and touching. Cook up some big bowls of pasta, uncork a nice bottle of wine and with someone you love (or want to) watch Big Night.
I loved this movie! It's the story of two brothers named Prima and Secondo (first and second in Italian). Secondo is the money orientated one who wants to strike it rich in America with a successful restaurant. He is charming, well dressed and attracted to shiny things, like new cars. Prima is an uncompromising purist and master chef who just wants everyone to simply fall in love with the food from his county, or at the very least try it. The story is simple and sweet...at first. It's the kind of movie that you have to let marinate for a while, and then the story becomes darker. Everyone seems to want what the other has.
This is a flick about food and culture. The main under current of the movie is the "Americanizing" of world cuisines, the bastardization and mainstreaming of ethnic food, conforming for ignorant idiots. The American palette is not receptive to the authentic kind of cooking or food that Prima is passionate about (this still goes on today). Italian food in America is a huge plate of spaghetti and meatballs and it must come on the side of everything...even risotto (as with the opening scene) and the competition across the street delivers just that to the masses every night, much to the dismay of the brothers.
Ironically, their restaurant is failing because their food is too Italian and they have no time left. The fate of the restaurant hinges on one night, one big night that will save them. Without spoiling the story, someone famous is coming to dinner and the brothers must go all out, putting on the biggest and best spread to impress. The one meal that will put them on the map and change everything. I especially loved the entire dinner scene, it was very genuine, sexual AND glutinous...a culinary orgy.
All the characters, every single one, are well acted and charmingly real. The writing and editing is really good and the dialogue seems unrehearsed and easy. I really can't say enough about this movie, I loved it! A simple and subtly dark story full of love, betrayal and tragedy. The only thing wrong with it, in my opinion, is that it makes me want to go to Italy and never come back...
!! Spoiler Alert !!
PLEASE WATCH THE MOVIE BEFORE READING THIS This is one of those movies that allows you to make up your own ending...so here's mine:
Everyone loved the food so much, and all the guests are from so many walks of life and in contact with so many different types of people (the florist, the food purveyor, the car salesman, the reporter...) and word spreads quickly and the foodies of the day, the ones who understand good food, all come out to eat, and Primo gets his wish...everyone eventually does come for the food...just the food (and Pascal's goes under)