By José Alberto Hermosillo
“Mafia Mamma” is one hundred and one minutes of pure fun! The women’s driven dark comedy pleases everyone, including those fine Italian members of “La Cosa Nostra” and other groups of dubious reputation.
In “Mafia Mamma,” Toni Collette moves out of her comfort zone and plays an Italian-American struggling-class mother neglected by a cheating husband, a diligent teenage son, and a toxic and misogynist working environment. When her grandfather is killed by the Italian mafia, her character of Kristin Balbano receives the call to become an accidental female version of “The Godfather” or perhaps one of the Capos of “The Sopranos.” Tony Collette can pull off a hell of a gang fight.
Colette had never played this type of witty and action character since the beginning of her successful career back in Australia when she started in the unforgettable international hit “Muriel’s Wedding,” followed by her Hollywood realization of stupendous blockbusters such as “The Sixth Sense” and “Miss Little Sunshine.” Both works earned her an Academy Award Nomination for Best Supporting Actress. Then, some other contemporary suspenseful and horror pieces came, such as “Hereditary,” “Nightmare Alley,” and “Knives Out.”
Once Kristin’s grandfather, Don Giuseppe Balbano, passed in Italy, Bianca, played by the gorgeous former “Bond Girl” Monica Bellucci (“Malena,” “The Matrix,” and “Irreversible”), calls demanding Kristin go to Italy immediately to take over Don Giuseppe’s affairs. This business includes running a poorly managed Italian winery and all the other mafia affairs. Kristin has no idea how to deal with those eventful situations, mostly because she has not watched any of “The Godfather” movies since those classics are over three and a half hours long.
Accidentally, Kristin becomes no “Don” (recalling “Don Corleone”), but “Dona Balbano,” and her first task is to make peace with the enemy, in this case, Carlo Romano, the new appointee of the opposite Italian mob. At their first meeting, a toast with limoncello in his hotel room can be the next best thing, and the Italian heartthrob becomes a magnet. As we previously learned in the long expository lines at the beginning, Kristin had not had sex in three years. Therefore, her effervescent body is ready to co-mingle with the attractive Italian capo. But things get sour when she says she has not watched “The Godfather Part II.” While she is getting killed by the seductive man, her bodyguards eat cannoli outside in the hallway, making every situation even more comedic.
“Mafia Mamma” does not abuse the Italian stereotypes as the HBO’s series “The White Lotus, season 2” does. The film, cleverly directed by Catherine Hardwicke (‘Twilight,” “Lords of Dogtown”), uses those stereotypes to its advantage, moving forward with women’s empowerment and a more feminist point-of-view.
“Mafia Mamma” is a story of casualties. The main character falls into difficult circumstances and slowly moves from the “traditional American working mom” role to a genuine Capo one. The exciting thing is when the character’s arch evolves into this newly liberated woman who wants to succeed. Her entire progression comes too late to make the film transcend into something more than pure entertainment.
The film could be more stylish, with more adrenaline. Still, it is not about “Baby Driver.” It is more of a realistic adaptation of what could happen to an American woman who inherited a vineyard in the Basilicata region of Italy during a mafia war between two powerful families.
After the movie, do not forget to drink a nice glass of rosé. This Balbano vintage has an extra kick that will make you feel like you are already in Italy.
“Mafia Mamma” is a delightful female-driven dark comedy with authentic Italian flavor where, in the end, men will be men, and women will rule.
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