There may be moments of violence in Mafia Mamma, but don’t get that that twisted. Filmmaker Catherine Hardwicke (Twilight, Thirteen) is a genre buster, and Mafia Mamma has a ton of narrative ingredients to spare. Romance, empowerment, and a heap of comedy (along with some homemade pasta) are thrown into the mix. Ultimately, it’s a light and breezy blend that works.
Kristin Balbano Jordan (Toni Collette) has empty nest syndrome now that her son Dominick (Tommy Rodger) is off to college. Husband Paul (Tim Daish) is downright immature, and one assumes that Kristin is the responsible one of the pair.
Her work as a pharmaceutical marketing executive is frustrating thanks to her reductive and narrow minded co-workers. Life throws a curve when Kristin’s grandfather, Italian winemaker Giuseppe Balbano, dies. Giuseppe’s consiglieri Bianca (Monica Bellucci) says Kristin must now head to Italy and settle the family business. Thanks to her husband’s recent indiscretion and encouragement from her friend Jenny (scene stealer Sophia Nomvete), she heads off to Rome.
The Balbanos are not a legitmate winemaker, and Kristin learns that her grandfather was murdered by the rival Romano family. Though in over her head, Kristin is more focused on romance (Giulio Corso is her potential love interest) than becoming the new Don. With great power comes great responsibility, and when you are a powerful mob boss a few murder attempts may also be in the offing!
Director Catherine Hardwicke keeps most of the story light amidst the moments of violence. If you want pure entertainment and see Collette shine as a comedic lead actress, then Mafia Mamma fits the bill. The movie gains momentum once Kristin gradually accepts her new responsibility. Bellucci delivers solid work as Kristin’s second in command, and more scenes developing her character would have been welcome. The lack of Bellucci is a minor complaint, as I was all in on this brisk affair.
Best friend roles in comedies tend to be a generic time filler, but Sophia Nomvete is a standout. She has the movie’s best lines (including “Eat, Pray, F**k”), and serves as the perfect foil for Kristin.
Mafia Mamma is powered by an engaging performance from Collette and a confident, light touch from Hardwicke. The pair previously worked together on Miss You Already, and a Mafia Mamma sequel has hopefully been talked about.
Based on an original story by Amanda Sthers, Mafia Mamma hits theaters April 14.
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