Toni Collette returns to cinema with Mafia Mamma, a female empowerment comedy/action/drama that utilises director Catherine Hardwicke to create an uneven traditional film that predictably critics will rage on, while audiences will love the over-the-top performance from Collette exploring a mid-life crisis. In the current age of cinema and storytelling, this may seem like an odd new release, particularly when it feels like it should have been released 15 years ago. The location shots and charm of the actors do enough to get you through the 90 minutes, the intended audience of mothers and children, this is the perfect Mother’s Day outing if you are stuck for a fun day out at the movies (preferably in a premium cinema with food and wine!).
The story revolves around Kristin (Collette) who is dumped by her dead-beat husband Paul (Tim Daish) just as their son heads off to college. Kristin receives a call from her estranged grandfather’s assistant Bianca (Monica Bellucci) advising that Giuseppe has passed away and she needs to come to Italy for the funeral and reading of the will. Upon her arrival, Kristin professes her trip to be an “Eat Pray F**k” tour of Italy in a desperate attempt to get over her divorce. At the reading of the will Kristin finds out she is the new head of the family business, a vineyard with horrible wine as a front for a crime family who is currently working through a rivalry with another who controls the other side of town. Kristin must decide if she wants to stay in Italy and how much pasta, gelato and Italian men she can get through in that time.
It’s great to see Hardwicke and Collette together again after 2015’s Miss You Already, while that film had well-rounded characters, the characters in this film are a lot more surface-level. Collette plays the ditzy and superficial American, suffering a mid-life crisis. While her character doesn’t go through any deep changes or development, she doesn’t need to. Her high-heel strutting, squealing and endless positivity is something that only an actress as talented as Collette can pull off without feeling cheesy or inauthentic. Hardwicke however presents the film with a really inconsistent tone. The unnecessary high amounts of blood and gore really don’t feel warranted in something as light-hearted as this. The often dis-membered body parts are shown far too long on-screen and if you taking little ones to your screening, you may want to leave them at home. It feels really out of place here, you could probably excuse the first time to really sell the seriousness of what is going on, but it really didn’t need to be shown in excess each time.
While this film is more Mafia than Mid-life crisis Eat, Pray F***-fest, the problem is, the blend of the two genres just doesn’t work. It takes itself far too seriously to really be laugh out loud funny. There are moments and most of these come from Collette, however, the majority of them just don’t seem to land in a traditional sense. General audiences may find some love in this as an easy-to-digest 90-minute escape from reality with a comedic legend.
Mafia Mamma is in cinemas now.
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