FILM REVIEW — Toni Collette makes offer you can’t refuse in “Mafia Mamma”
Published 12:02 am Friday, April 14, 2023
Directed by Catherine Hardwicke
Starring Toni Collette, Monica Bellucci, Giullo Corso, Eduardo Scarpetta
“Mafia Mamma” is the outlandish, fish-out-of-water story of an American woman who gets caught up in an all-out mafia war.
It’s a bit of a whiplash affair, with the film careening from scenes of silly comedy to some sensual romance and then over to bloody violence. Normally I’d prefer that the filmmakers pick a lane, but in this case, the absurdity of these disparate elements only add to the fun.
Toni Collette stars as a woman who is unhappy with her life at home. Things take a drastic turn when she gets a call saying her the grandfather she never knew has been killed. She flies to Italy, where a family consigliere (Monica Bellucci) informs her she has been named the new head of a Mafia crime family.
I hate when that happens.
Collette is very funny playing the cheerful American just looking to have an Italian adventure, only to find she has been targeted for assassination by a rival crime family.
She survives the attacks through a combination of dumb luck and some self-defense skills she learned at her local gym back home. These are the film’s bloody moments, but they usually come with some humorous touches that make them a little easier to handle.
The other notable element of this film is the gorgeous Italian scenery — and by “scenery,” I mean the beautiful men that come out of the woodwork to woo our heroine. She is very receptive to these sexy men. Indeed, there’s a running joke in the film where she leans into her “Eat, Pray, Love” adventure, although she replaces the word “love” with an R-rated synonym.
Throughout all of this, Collette is very appealing in her transformation from clueless American to sexy Mafia Donna. She looks fabulous as she steps up her wardrobe (and her men) and yet she still manages to keep a sense of kindness in her character.
One of my favorite examples of this is found in the bond she forms with her bodyguards, who eventually grow to become part of her family. It gives the film a sense of sweetness — not exactly what you think of in a story set in the middle of a bloody Mafia war.
Perhaps that’s why I found this slight film to be such an enjoyable little comedy. Collette has always been adept at playing humorous characters, and that’s on full display here. The violence is serious, and the romantic elements are sexy, but not so much that they derail the film from its main point of showing us a woman who finally unleashes the powerful woman inside of her.
Obviously the film is going to appeal more to female audiences, but there are still plenty of universal themes here to keep everyone happy. The film won’t ever be confused as a comic tour de force, or even a great female-empowerment drama, but as a feel-good fantasy drama aimed at adults, “Mafia Mamma” makes an enjoyable offer you can’t refuse.
Movie reviews by Sean McBride, “The Movie Guy,” are published each week by Port Arthur Newsmedia and seen weekly on KFDM and Fox4. Sean welcomes your comments via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.