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Primo & Secondo, two immigrant brothers, pin their hopes on a banquet honoring a famous musician to save their struggling restaurant.
Genre: Feature Film-Drama
Release Date: 6-NOV-2007
Media Type: DVD
Critics tripped all over their big feet to praise Big Night, and in doing so performed a grave disservice to this fine little film. They fooled audiences into believing it was a "super movie" instead of a home movie buoyed by friends and family. Consequently, many viewers were disappointed. Big Night is an intimate look at the immigrant struggle to attain the American Dream, set in New Jersey in the 1950s. Its disproportionate success gave co-directors Stanley Tucci and Campbell Scott, who also star in the picture, the green light to follow up with a smug, unsuccessful second venture called The Imposters. Tucci wrote Big Night with his cousin Joseph Tropiano, and they based the story on the experience of growing up in a large, proud Italian family. The brothers in Big Night--chef Primo (Tony Shalhoub) and businessman Secondo (Tucci)--have come to New Jersey to open a bistro named The Paradise that serves the finest in traditional, authentic Italian cuisine. Their every move is foiled by rival restaurant Pascal's, which serves mile-high servings of spaghetti and meatballs and flasks of bad Chianti at exorbitant prices. Primo is disgusted by the fact that Americans want cheap pasta instead of risotto, so Secondo hatches a plan to boost business: rumor has it bandleader Louis Prima is travelling through and will dine at The Paradise that very night. Secondo gambles to bring the finest dinner ever cooked--at the risk of losing his shirt and being reduced to exile to the old country with his tail between his legs. Big Night is a film that will easily invite comparisons to other "food" fare like Babette's Feast and Eat Drink Man Woman but, though Tucci insists his story is "about the struggle between art and commerce and the risk of staying true to yourself," the media refused to let it stay a small, comparative work. The movie, and the buzz around it, became a parable for the essence of the film itself: art vs. commerce. --Paula Nechak
- The American cinema needs more BIG NIGHTS!
The film "Big Night" is not a small little picture that was over-hyped by critics. The only person who would be disappointed in this film would be some 15-year old kid that was looking for some kind of "2 Fast 2 Furious" crap. Over all the Amazon editorial staff does a fine job of presenting the plot or scope of a film, book, or CD. In the case of "Big Night" I am left to wonder if the reviewer watched the film or just read the back of the DVD case. Her opinions are fine but in the review itself she wrongly guides the reader as to both the plot and the outcome of the movie- Two things that should never be done....more info
- A movie that you can sink your teeth into!
This is one of those fabulous movies that you can pop in any time that you want to be entertained. It's touching, it's funny, it is familiar. It is done with a well-known cast of actors that bring meat and potatoes to the story. With Tony Shalhoub and Stanley, how can you go wrong?...more info
- Small budget, Big Night
Big Night provides a good example of how a great movie can be made without a lot of money if you have a good story and good acting. Big Night draws us into a story about art (in this case, the art of cooking-a favorite of mine), success and family while asking us to question how we prioritize these things. The story populates itself with distinct, well-conceived characters, and a great part of the fun is watching the skilled actors sink their teeth into the roles. And the party that ensues and the food that's served leaves you wishing you could be there. (I've made the timpano many times, and believe me, it's every bit as good as it looks.) It's a fun, stimulating experience, and though a little overwrought in the latter stages, Tucci and company had the courage to close the film with a scene in which simple actions speak more eloquently than dialogue....more info
- One of my favorite movies...
In the end, it gives you joy, makes you smile and makes you hungry. What more can one ask for?...more info
- The main course of great moviemaking
Big Night is one of those rare movies that really hits every right note in great filmmaking. It's a passionate and heartfelt movie about the bonds of family and the love of class that gives you a sense of majesty and flavor. Tony Shalhoub and Stanley Tucci, (Who by the way co-directed this film with Campbell Scott) Plays brothers who own a struggling Italian Restaurant who puts everything on the line for one big night to save their business. Primo (Tony Shalhoub) Rather live for his art for fine food than be successful, while Secondo (Stanley Tucci) tries to keep Primo and himself above water while being tempted by the extravagances of owning a successful Restaurant. An all around superb cast of characters backs them up in this journey that includes Mark Anthony as their loyal follow coworker, and Sir Ian Holms as an rival Restaurant owner who tries to help them out. This is a true heartfelt movie that should not be missed under any circumstance....more info
- Unbelievably BAD
Billed as thought provolking, the only thoughts it provoked for me were: why did anyone waste their efforts making it? and what in the world compelled me to buy it?
This was such a tedious "exploration of the immigrant struggle" that I had to "struggle" to stay awake....more info
I love movies and I love good food and I love Louis Prima's music. This movie has it all!...more info
- "Louis Prima, Where Are You?"
This wonderful film, set in pre-Julia Child America, captures perfectly the enduring conflict in this country between quality and the pandering to the lack of it. Many other countries, which have taught their citizens standards of excellence, assume that what is most popular will therefore be the best; thus, for example, even a Tokyo cabdriver knows that sushi is undeniably superior to beef bowl. Amusingly, many Japanese tourists to the States falsely assume as a consequence that certain fast food restaurants here must feature the best American food because they are the most popular. "Big Night" exposes the fallacy in such thinking. It is Ian Holm's vulgar spaghetti factory which is the financial success, not the restaurant where the foodie artist Tony Shaloub cooks, a bistro which features magnificent cuisine beyond the average 50's American person's palate. What the film shows is that an unpopular artist may be above the average person's taste instead of necessarily below it. What an insult to the democratic dogma!
As a film documenting the discerning immigrant experience in a less discerning America, "Big Night" is a comic gem....more info
- FIne acting from a first rate cast
This is not a big flashy movie but it is full of great actors doing their best work. The performances are real and well rounded. You never catch any of them "acting". They all live in the scene....more info
- Food For the Soul and the Body
The meal isn't over till there's a satiated big beautiful woman laying on the table enjoying a cigarette like Bette Davis and Paul Henreid in "Now, Voyager." But life goes on, and someone has to pay the bill.
This movie is about how you pay that bill. Primo would pay it with money earned by his sweat and formidable talent; honestly. Secundo would not order what he could not afford, but he would ask the waiter about the lobster and the caviar to savor the idea of the best meal; realistically. Competitor Pasqualle would continue entertaining his friends till one of them became so exhausted they would pick up the bill so they can go home and sleep; he gets someone else to pay it. Big Night is about how you feed your body via the spiritual essence of living your life. The movie shows us the personification of idealism and perfection, realism and honesty, and deceit and manipulation. It shows us our own choices between what we want and what we have to do.
It is a peek of Atlas Shrugged that fits on film. Instead of the smoke, steam and clatter of industrialism, we have the smoke, steam and clatter of the kitchen--something we all recognize as the most basic way to nurture ourselves and those we love. We recognize that those we don't love must have their own kitchen, too.
The way we manage our kitchen is a reflection of what we really are. Pasqualle berates the help as he gives people what they want, even though he clearly knows that there is better to give them. Pasqualle himself tells us that to be a success, first you have to give "them" what they want, then someday you can give then what you want (to give them). He has sold out though, content with the security of meeting demand.
Primo and Secundo manage their kitchen earnestly, and want to succeed on their ability. Secundo struggles to keep the business afloat, lured by the security Pasqualle has created. He flirts with glamor, just as he carries on a physical affair with Pasqualle's wife and professes he wants marriage with his girlfriend. The affair is exciting, but his fiancee is consistent and loyal. Pasqualle's club is exciting, but the brothers want their resturaunt to be enjoyed without glitz and artiface. The real issue is that they don't have the time for the approach they want to use; just as our choices are constrained by time and resources.
Leonard Maltin said this movie is slow-paced. He's welcome to the short-order meals offered by casual dining. I prefer to dine less often at a real resturaunt where the food is hand made from scratch. Big Night is an irristable orgy of food and good times, and the moral of the story is that there is an honest compromise between good times on someone else's dime and deprivation that would mean the death of the spirit. It is about being a good failure as well as defining for yourself what success really means.
This movie is not about the overdramatized "reality" referred to as gritty; it is about reality that really exists for real people who question themselves and are honest with themselves.
Give me a break. This movie contains so many beautiful moments and subtelties it's unbelievable. The ending of this movie is one of the greatest endings of all time. Quiet, subtle, like nothing you've ever seen....more info
- So beautiful
Simple. Searing. Complex. Gentle. Big Night takes you on an emotional ride through the lives of brothers, making you care about both of them and see both sides of their story....more info
- Oh, It's Big
What better compliment can I give to Big Night than to say it's a simple story, well told. It celebrates the pleasures of good food and the pressures of brotherhood. The centerpiece of Big Night is the culinary orgy of traditional Mediterranean dishes served with the the finest of care to the most captive of audiences. It's not long before we realize that the guest of honor is just a ruse, but who cares. Dish after dish is placed before us, and we can't help but gasp at the beauty and wonder of their banquet.
In the end, the dilemma of Primo and Secondo is the artist's as well: does one give the people what they want or teach them to like what they haven't tried before? In Big Night, Tucci shows us that it can indeed be both....more info
Boring is the best thing I can say about this bomber. I am perplexed by the raves this movie has received. I had to end it before it was 1/2 way over and then went swiftly to sleep. Has anyone seen Rodger & Me? Same idea. Try "Jean de Florette" and "Manon of the Spring" if you want a truly great movie....more info
- Big Night
"Big Night" is a small joy, whose success lies in its recreation of period detail, and in bravura turns by its ensemble cast, particularly Shalhoub, who steals the picture as brother Primo, the shy, eccentric, uncompromising chef. Minnie Driver and Isabella Rossellini offer memorable support, but the main course is, of course, the banquet--a coup for the brothers, if guest of honor Prima shows. Tucci's script, written with his cousin Joseph Tropiano, revolves around food and family, but it also involves a familiar quest: to realize the American Dream without selling out....more info
- A touching feast
Don't expect big action or big adventure. Big Night is a small film that certainly will stay with you when it the ending credits begin. Think of the feeling you have after drinking a rather nice bottle of Merlot and you will understand the emotion of this film. The film centers around two brothers: one, an idealist, the other, a pragmatist and the rich cast of characters. The interaction between the brothers is lovable and touching. It often simulates real life if you happen to be the proud offspring of an immigrant family. The food is inspiring and the remarkable and the rich flavors of dialogue help you understand the importance that succeeding in a new country and staying true to your own convictions can often times be overwhelming. There are a few holes in the plotline that seem to make no logical sense (i.e. the brother's rival taking a heartfelt interest in their business) so the climax was predictable. I understand that this movie received "raves". A good film, but certainly not "one of the best". It is a perfect movie to rent for those "Dinner & Movie" nights....more info
- BIG FUN!
This is a fun movie. Not only does it make you hungry watching it, it is fun to watch the stars of today back in the "olden days" :) GO MONK!...more info
- Some films stick to your ribs
I was writing a review of The Hoax when I remembered why I bought the DVD. Ever since watching The Big Night, I've bought any film with Stanley Tucci in the cast. I noticed that in other Amazon customer reviews of The Big Night, people seem to either hate or love this film. I fall into latter group.
I originally saw The Big Night on the big screen because a local newspaper reviewer suggested that you see the film at an early showing with a reservation for later the same evening at your favorite Italian restaurant. Dinner and a movie: What could be more American.
Although The Big Night didn't do well at the box office, it developed legs on DVD. This movie blazed a path for other food movies, propelled Tucci's career, and generated untold register receipts at Italian restaurants across America. Quite an accomplishment for a quiet little film. (Actually, the first food movie I remember was It Happened One Night. No other film has made me want to eat a carrot.)
A piece of trivia about these two Tucci films: Both are hoax stories.
jamesdbest.com: author of The Shopkeeper, Leadville, The Shut Mouth Society
- BEAUTIFUL SMALL MOVIE
This movie is about a lot of things: uncompromising perfection, the differing notions of success, brotherly rivalry, the American Dream, love (oh yeah, there's lots of shades here) and, of course, food. I don't think a lot of reviewers have overpraised this film. My test of a great movie is while I'm watching it I think of people I know who I'd like to see it with and then I try to make it happen ("C'mon over, I've seen a movie I want you to see with me!). Lots of priceless scenes, both comic and touching. I won't spoil it for anyone but the last scene is a long take that wraps it up perfectly. If you're looking for AMERICAN PIE this ain't it but if you are patient you will be rewarded. A keeper.
- a delicious film (on many levels).....
BIG NIGHT is a great film and an equally great story, that really appeals to the senses. For starters, we see great Italian food shots, during the "big night" (for which the film derives its title). I am not much of an Italian food aficianado, but it makes me want to be! Everything from the colorful appetizers, to the main course-what I would describe as a pasta cake, loaded with sausage, cheese and other filling ingredients, just fill your senses and you can just smell the basil, cheese and tomato sauce. Secondly, the writing and what the actors do with that writing (thanks to great direction by Stanley Tucci and Campbell Scott, as well as a great cast) is just beautiful.
The plot is modelled on the hopes and dreams of many immigrants, arriving on the shores of 1950s United States, searching for a better life, determined to achieve something bigger and better than what they could ever have accomplished, back home (there is a poignance to this theme, especially at this time, where that dream is more and more fleeting, as we are all being pulled into a state of paranoia and disdain, particularly toward foreigners). Two brothers, Primo (Tony Shalhoub) and Segundo (Stanley Tucci) own and operate a failing Italian restaurant. Though, Primo is an amazing and dedicated chef, Segundo is the more wily and crafty younger brother, determined to cut a deal and make them successful. When they get wind of an opportunity to bring in famous swing singer Louis Prima, to their restaurant, for one very big night, how can they pass up on this opportunity? This could either make or break their reputation, as well as their bank account.
BIG NIGHT is beautifully crafted, and another great actor (who we know better as a well-respected and very talented salsa star) featured here is Marc Anthony, in an understated role as their young, quiet and slightly bumbling waiter, at the restaurant. The women featured in this film are gorgeous, too. Minnie Driver is stunningly beautiful, as Phyllis, Segundo's American girlfriend, and Isabella Rossellini plays the "other woman." I don't want to divulge any more plot details. I will say that this is a film that you really can't compare to other "food movies," though many have anyway. It's really a very intelligent character study about the immigrant experience, with food as a very colorful (and flavorful) backdrop. ...more info
- risotto, love & sibling rivalries
Well, BIG NIGHT is not exactly the kind of movie that I usually watch, but while I would not consider it outstanding, this melodrama kept me captivated and entertained.
Set in the 1950ies (the period setting works quite well in the movie`s favour)BIG NIGHT revolves around two Italian brothers who have recently immigrated to the USA, Primo(Tony SHALHOUB)and Secondo(Stanley TUCCI). The brothers run a small Italian restaurant with Secondo as manager and the older Primo as cook. Business is not too good, though, and the bank manager, who had granted them a loan, wants his money back. Complicating matters is the fact that the older Primo, while an outstanding cook is a very traditional man, who does not favour giving in to the different culinary tastes of the local populace and prefers to prepare meals in the traditional way he learned in Italy. The younger Secondo on the other hand is a more business minded type of guy, who would prefer to alter their cooking style in order to attract more customers.
The brothers also experience troubles in their love life. Primo is in love with a girl, who works as shop assistant in a flower store, but is too shy and awkward to woo her. Secondo, more of a womanizer, loves a nice girl (great performance by Minnie DRIVER), but cheats on her with a married Italian-American woman, played by Isabella ROSSELLINI. (While I am not overly conservative, I think this plot development makes the Secondo character less likeable.)
A friend makes them an offer the brothers can not afford to ignore: He claims to be a good friend of the then famous band leader Louis PRIMA and will invite the musician to dine at their restaurant. The brothers invite everybody they know and risk everything they own in a BIG NIGHT - a party of outstanding culinary refinement. Now will they go bankrupt or will they be successful in their pursuit of the American Dream? Will they get their respective girls? And how will their brotherly relationship turn out? I won't spoil it for you, so watch yourself.
Overall I enjoyed the story and the characters. I am particular fond of the Primo character. Tony SHALHOUB is a great actor (and while I never really liked his MONK antics I found his portrayal of an Arab American FBI agent in THE SIEGE outstanding) and turns in a great performance. In particular I found the scene, where his character awkwardly woos his would-be girl friend in the restaurant's kitchen, quite moving. Also the underlying topic of preserving one`s culture and heritage in a foreign environment found favour with me. And one thing is for sure: You WILL get hungry watching this movie and very likely head for an Italian restaurant afterwards!
As I already said BIG NIGHT is not the kind of movie I usually watch, so people who are ardent fans of melodramas will very likely enjoy it much more than me (and consequently would give a higer rating!)
One last word on the technical side of the DVD: The film is a widescreen presentation in the original theatrical aspect ratio. While perfectly watchable, picture quality is rather unimpressive. Unfortunately there are no extra features to speak of, save a theatrical trailer (which sells the film well, but in my view highlights the film`s comedy aspects too much)and well-written, but brief liner notes.
- A hidden masterpiece!
This is in my opinion one of the best movies ever made and I am not exagerating. A Brilliant cast with Stanley Tucci, Isabella Rossellini, Minnie Driver, Tony Shaloub and Ian Holm stealing every scene he's in. This is a film with a warm heart and wonderful humour that deserves to be praised....more info
- You CAN smell the food while watching
This is a beautiful movie on a number of levels. As many reviewers have noted already the Italian cooking and the scenes in the kitchen will have you craving a fine Italian dinner as soon as you finish watching.
Beyond the food this is a fine film with a very touching story involving two immigrant brothers who are extremely close despite their obvious personality differences. The tension between the brothers builds as they attempt to salvage their struggling restaurant business. Primo (Tony Shalhoub)the older brother has an artistic temperment and that applies to his uncompromising approach to cooking and cuisine. His brother,Secondi(Staney Tucci), has more material ambitions and is manipulated by a competing restauratnt owner into an ill-advised attempt to publicise their restaurant by having an elaborate dinner party for singer Louie Prima. Hence the film revolves around preparations for THE BIG NIGHT.
The climax has the conflict between the brothers break out into the open and the film ends with a beautiful sequence in the kitchen where there is a silent reconcilliation.
The story is set in a New Jersey shore town in the 1950's. The period is captured beautifully with big-finned Cadilacs cruising down the main street and the women's fashions are right on the money. The soundtrack is absolutely fabulous with cuts from Rosemary Clooney, Louie Prima and some lesser known Italian recording artists.
Both Shalhoub and Tucci are excellent in thei roles and the supporting cast is very good as well.
Overall I highly reccomend both the film and the soundtrack....more info
- Great movie, cheap DVD
As most of the other reviewers have noted, this is delightful gem of a movie about the conflict between two Italian immigrant brothers who are trying to operate a restaurant. The older brother, Primo (Tony Shalhoub), is a culinary purist, the younger brother, Secundo (Stanley Tucci), is more pragmatic. The cast is rounded out with Ian Holm, Minnie Driver, and Isabella Rossellini.
I deducted a star because the DVD is cheaply made. There is no director's commentary, and no alternative sound set up. My copy contains an insert that states that there are two English sound tracks, a Dolby surround sound and a 5.1 dolby digital. Surround sound is the default, but to play back the 5.1, "simply access the main menu, select Languages/audio setup, then select English 5.1 (dolby digital)." Simple enough. The only problem is that the main menu does not contain a "select languages/audio setup" option. It simply doesn't exist. Which makes the insert kind of funny.
Bottom line, this is cool movie with a great sound track, but they need to take another shot a making a DVD....more info
Good films are unforgettable... and here's one. On the surface it's a quirky little story about two Italian brothers running a restaurant in New Jersey in the 1950's. One is ridiculously passionate about cooking superb food while the other tries to make his brother's passion commercially viable despite the fact that customers don't want what he cooks. Both are up against their more successful Italian neighbour who gives the customers exactly what they want. Not much then... but it's what goes on beneath this deceptively simple tale that makes it so good.
The tense, sincere and often very funny interactions between the two brothers are so believable that they make you really want them to succeed with the "Big Night" on which the future of their restaurant and their relationship depends. Against this background, the preparation of the dishes themselves becomes an all-consuming event, infused with the drama and expectation of a chef in full flight cooking, of necessity, the meal of his life. And, the subtle plot with its inevitable denouement is understated and, as a result, extremely effective.
Brilliantly acted, charming and, in the end, quite moving, "Big Night" is a superbly reflective exploration into the dreams & hopes of two immigrants in an alien world where their values don't apply and where this threatens to destroy the most important relationship they have. Over-hyped on its release and now increasingly forgotten it's an unmissable gem of a film.
- For Foodies Everywhere
This is an outstanding piece of film making which is as satisfying as a good meal. A first course which tests and teases the tastebuds; a satisfying main course made up of rich performances and wonderful surprises; and the final dish which is breath-takingly beautiful and poignant....more info
I loved this movie. Great ending that the 0ne-star reviews probably just didn't "get"....more info
- A wonderful story. A thinking/feeling person's movie.
My wife and I have wanted to see this movie for a while and finally did last night. It was really a superb movie. Bravo Shaloub and Tucci....more info
- "Big Night" was the Best Movie of 1996.
The fact that it didn't receive a single Academy Award nomination is a harsh indictment of the Academy. Sure, it's a very small, quiet film, but its characters are so memorable, its dialogue so perfect, that I can't imagine that anyone who sees it can ever forget it. Big Night, in its own unassuming way, touches on a lot of Big Issues--the joy of food, the love of family, the constant war of art vs. ambition, the necessity of staying true to your principles--and it does so gracefully and entertainingly. It probably was never a realistic candidate for Best Picture, but at least there could have been nominations for Best Original Screenplay and for the performances of Tony Shalhoub, Ian Holm and Minnie Driver. That would have been simple justice....more info
- A feast for the eyes (and ears!)
This is the most entertaining film I have seen in recent memory. A brilliant work all around, from the direction to the writing to the cast. Shalhoub and Tucci play off one another as immigrant brothers with incredible chemistry and ease, while Ian Holm gives a deliciously subtle performance as the villainous restauranteur down the street. Like Shalhoub describing Lasagna Bolognese, you can try to watch the mouthwatering dinner scene, but be warned--view it only on a full stomach (preferably Italian cuisine), or you may very well have to kill yourself afterwards. And as if that scene weren't lethal enough, the film's soundtrack too is to die for. Also, relish the final scene of Big Night--a perfect dessert to a five-star, five-course, absolutely delicious meal of a film.
For those who loved this film, check out The Imposters. Written and directed by Stanley Tucci, with much of the same cast as Big Night, it's not as strong as this effort, but it marches to a completely different tune and is a remarkable film in its own right....more info
- superb food movie
subtle, touching, it oozes love of good (italian) food.
the acting was out of this world....more info
- One of my all-time favorites
The Big Night is one of my all time favorite movies. Being a graphic artist I felt I could really relate to the chef Primo, wanting to create a masterpiece and feeling frustrated when it's not what the public wants. The soundtrack is also a must own. Oh yeah, and a big tip, NEVER WATCH THIS MOVIE HUNGRY....more info
- RISOTTO VS HOT-DOGS
BIG NIGHT is Stanley Tucci's first movie and deserves more than a polite attention. It's the story of two italian brothers trying to make a living with their restaurant specialized in original italian food. We're in the 50's and american people are still in their meatballs and steak culinary period leaving the two brothers without clients nor money. One of their luckier italian fellows played by Ian Holm (!) promises to bring to the restaurant a well-known italian singer in order to give a new start to the brothers. So they will prepare a BIG NIGHT which will stay for all the guests the culinary dream of their lifetime.
I must admit that it's the first time in my movie lover life that I was so hungry during a projection. Unbelievable ! The camera was in love with the different menus the brothers offered to their guests. And the actors seemed to enjoy very much the food they were eating !
BIG NIGHT is also a movie about cultural integration in the United States. The Paradise restaurant lies near the sea the two brothers have sailed across to reach America. In fact, this is the real Port of Entry for them ! And there are only two solutions. To get back or to give up a lot of the italian particularities they are made of in order to be a real american citizen, healthy, businessman and fond of hot-dogs.
A theatrical trailer as extra-feature.
A DVD for Minnie Driver....more info
- One of the best little films ever
This is a simple story, one about love, greed, betrayal, ambition, and how one man with a big idea - doesn't always get to live the American Dream. Fine acting, a good story, excellent period music and costumes, and featuring food that is simply to *live* for - what is there about this movie not to like? No hip soundtrack, no car chases or explosions, no violent outbreaks or profanity-laden dialogue? Well, this may not exacly be a family movie, but it is one that is good for a rent on a rainy day, or a date when it comes around to your local artsy one screen theater....more info
- LET'S JUST EAT !!!
I love FOOD MOVIES in general and I own some of them, this is my most recent discovery and I enjoyed it a lot.
This is not the typical "food" movie that probably we are used to watch.
Honestly I didn't liked Marc Anthony or whoever the hell he is . . .
I don't really care for him at all, this movie would've been even better without him....more info
- What a delight - but eat before you watch it
Eat before you watch this movie; otherwise, you'll end up painfully hungry and go stuff yourself with every bit of Italian food you can lay your hands on.
This is a simple story of two brothers struggling to fulfill their dreams - one to be a "success" in America; the other to be a great Italian chef.
Realizing the dreams of the first brother hinges on the success of one important meal depends on the skill of the second - and forces outside their control.
Tucci, Shaloub, Holm and company all give wonderful performances. There's no showing off by the many successful actors who are in this movie - they all just do a great job.
The climax of the movie is the banquet scene, and it's going to make you hungry and want to get up and dance.
The final scene which lasts for several minutes with the only dialog being one line - "are you hungry" - wraps up the movie nicely, and shows what a good director and actors can do when both understand the power of subtlety.
This is one fun movie - lots of laughs, amazing food, and a great soundtrack....more info
- A wonderful film
This is one of my favourite foodie films and is definitely up there with Babette's Feast. Check out the final scene, shot in one take and featuring considerable poise and culinary skill by Stanley Tucci. A classic!...more info
- A Small Triumph for The Immigrant Experience
How did I miss this film when it first came out? I've just discovered it on DVD, and I'm glad I did. What a wonderful celebration of food, family and heritage!
I'm a second generation Italian-American whose immigrant maternal grandparents came through Ellis Island from Naples in 1907. They opened a small Italian restaurant in New York that is still in business today. Big Night brings back many poignant memories of growing up and working with my mother's family in the business. It also shows the wonderful cuisine that my Nonna prayed would delight her customers and feed her dreams of success for us in America. For her, every night was a Big Night.
This quiet film is a small triumph in its realistic depiction of the immigrant experience in America. It shows how the cultural clashes and and business differences can confound even the most intrepid newcomer; however, it also shows how the immigrant's cultural background, unique skills and innate dignity cannot be erased, thereby adding some wonderful new flavor to American life. Stanley Tucci's obvious labor of love is an achievement for its point of view as well as for its writing, acting and editing. The final long, uncut scene, which I hear is studied in film schools, has a beautiful timeless quality that lives on in the memory long after the film is over.
The only reason I gave this 5-star film a 4-star rating is because of the DVD quality. It deserves a better transfer and some enhancements, like the actors' commentaries or some background on the food's selection and preparation for the film. Perhaps a future edition will be kinder to it. Until then, this version of Big Night will live happily between Babette's Feast and Chocolat in my Best Food Films collection. Mangia!...more info
- The Fountainhead in restaurant form
If I could give this movie 6 stars I would. The movie is truly made for someone like me though, as I am a chef and have a philosophy similar to Objectivism.
The movie is basically a tug-a-war between two different philosophies. Tony Shalhoub's character Primo represents the uncompromising visionary, who believes that you should just make the product exceptional & in everyway perfect regardless of the ends. His work is his reason for being. It is everything that makes his life worth living. He says, "If I sacrifice my work, it dies. It is better that I die."
Stanley Tucci's character Secondo represents the business-minded approach of giving the customer what he wants. It doesn't matter if you sacrifice your work, if that is what will determine your success. Work is only a means to an end. You feel his stress of being so close to bankruptcy the whole movie. You feel his desire to be successful, to have the beautiful women and the nice cars.
Even though these two philosophies are at odds, you sympathize with both. You understand both. It is noble and filling to be ideal, though it can be very hard and lead to ruin. And being pragmatic makes life easier, though it gives you no meaning.
A truly excellent film. ...more info
- On My Best 10 list
I first saw this film when it was first released, over ten years ago. I have watched it several times since, and it keeps getting better every time. It is so sparse, and yet so full. So much is left unsaid, and yet deeply felt. It is the portrayal of this relationship between two brothers of completely different temperament, but who deeply care about each other, and united by a dream that binds them, which is most moving. The very last scene, when they commune around the simplest and most symbolic of foods, with not a word (but a wonderful soundtrack of noises that heighten the silence) is a masterpiece of understatement.
Big Night is, and will remain, one of the ten and probably five best movies I have ever seen.
Another great food film! The unforgettable characters is what truly makes this a film worth seeing. These 2 Italian brothers in New Jersey have a small restaurant which is failing partially due to the old world ideology of the chef brother, and the americanization of the other brother. They witness the restaurant up the street thrive albeit serving food that "the owner should be in prison for". Just when they are almost completely broke, they get a chance to serve Louis Primo, and they go all out to create a truly spectacular banquet.
Again, the acting is wonderful, and the characters are laugh-out-loud funny. Check this one out for sure....more info
- Wonderful "Little Film" -- So-So DVD
Stanley Tucci, as actor, co-writer, and co-director (with Campbell Scott, who also plays a pitch-perfect small part as a car salesman), deserves a great deal of the credit for this small, intimate, delightful film. But the film resonates because it got so many of the little touches right, from the ensemble cast to the soundtrack to the editing to the cinematography. So there is a lot of credit to go around.
Tucci plays Secondo, the aptly named younger of two Italian brothers who have emigrated to New Jersey from the Old Country. Secondo is the entrepreneur, the guy who wants the big Cadillac. Primo (Tony Shahloub), the older brother, is the magician of a chef. Primo is so good, in fact, that his culinary masterpieces go over the heads of the good folks of New Jersey. When contemplating a wonderful seafood risotto, a diner complains that she can't see the seafood, and that her desired side of spaghetti doesn't come with meatballs (inspiring the wonderful line, "Sometimes spaghetti wants to be alone").
Primo bemoans the fact that he is serving food to Philistines, but the sad fact is that most of the Philistines are eating across the street at Pascal's restaurant. Pascal, played with great zest by Ian Holm, knows that you have to give the customer what he wants -- even if it is culinary sacrilege. The contrasts between the restaurants, from the colors to the lighting to the clientele, could not be more staggering!
Secondo laments to Pascal of his financial woes, but refuses Pascal's (repeated) offer to come work for him. Pascal, being a big-hearted guy, tells Secondo to pull of a "big night," with no holds barred. Pascal will invite his good friend, Louis Prima, who will come, eat, and love Secondo's restaurant. Then, the people will come.
So the story builds to the big night (a side plot regarding Secondo's tortured love life notwithstanding), which is where the movie really takes off.
Organizing the banquet scene into courses, "Big Night" revels in the wonders that can only be brought about by great cooking. The cast has a difficult task -- how do you emote rapture without going over the top? The ensemble cast, which includes Isabella Rosselini, Minnie Driver, and Allison Janney, nails this task just right. The cooking scenes are also hectic and impressive without going over the top, too.
Following the big night, many truths are revealed, perhaps because it is impossible to deceive after having such a wondrous experience. If this film doesn't move you, or inspire you to get thee hence to an Italian restaurant, you have no heart!
But again, the heart of the movie is its dedication to the small touches. From Primo using his cup to tamp down his espresso grounds to the making of a simple omelet, this movie gets it all just right.
The DVD does not have much to offer as far as extras go. What it does have is one heck of little film....more info
- Food Glorious Food
This little movie, and it seems a disservice to call it that, is so charming and touching, that it's on my permanent top ten list. The performances are subtle and the food, oh my God the food! Did I forget the music? The soundtrack is one of the best to listen to while cooking Italian. Plot has been covered by others, so I'll stick with tiny details, the faces of the stuffed diners, the conga line, the women's chat and the timpano...oh the timpano! I made this dish at home (over 3 days) and it was glorious. My favorite part of the movie though, is the final scene, shot in one-take, of Segundo preparing breakfast. No words, just acting (and cooking). Excellent, like the rest of it....more info
- Worth watching
No action heros , no state of the art special effects , no sex and no violence . Just real actors playing real people in real life situations . Wonderful and convincing cast especially Tucci , Holm and Rosellini , but you have to single out Shalhoub who gave a brilliant performance ....more info
- Big Meal
"Big Night" is a compelling movie with good acting, great direction, a good plot...Wait a minute?!? What plot? That's the only problem with "Big Night"; the story doesn't seem to go anywhere. We find ourselves enjoying the company, starting to feel like regulars at the ristorante but eventually it hits us; What was the point of the movie? Well, some might say the point can be found in the movie's title. After all, it is actually a lot of fun to be present at the big party; even if the guest of honor didn't show. And how about that meal? Have you ever had a better one? Or, at least, have you ever seen a better one?
"Big Night" is a pleasant way to spend an evening. Just enjoy the cameraderie and the visual culinary delights and you will come away the better for it. I know I did....more info
- A charming little film
Big Night is a charming small film about Italian immigrants in the 1950's setting up a restaurant in New Jersey. The film highlights the immigrant dilemma, do you change your life to become part of the American "melting pot" or do you retain the culture of the "old country." Well written, well acted, and surprising supporting players....more info
- A bland meal
I've seen BIG NIGHT described as "one of the great food movies". Let me clarify something here. The adjective "great" modifies "food", but not "movies".
Primo (Tony Shalhoub) and Secondo (Stanley Tucci) are Italian immigrant brothers who've opened the Paradise restaurant in an unidentified surfside town on the Eastern seaboard sometime in the 1950s. The elder Primo is a superlative chef, and both he and Secondo know it. But, Primo cooks to his desires and not the customers'. So, two years into the venture, the brothers are almost broke, the bank is about to repossess, and Secondo, the one with the business sense, is driven to despairing distraction.
Down the street is the competing Italian restaurant owned by Pascal (Ian Holm). While he admires Primo's talent, Pascal gives his patrons what they want, so his eatery is enormously successful. To help the boys out, Pascal arranges to have his friend, the Italian-American singer Louis Prima, come to the Paradise with his band for dinner. Secondo spends virtually the last of their savings preparing for the BIG NIGHT with the expectation that the event and its attendant publicity will yank them back from the brink of insolvency. In the meantime, he avoids emotional commitment to his girlfriend Phyllis (Minnie Driver) while having an affair with Gabriella (Isabella Rossellini), Pascal's mistress. After all, what are pals for?
The best bits of this film are the too infrequent cooking sequences. But the best ends there. BIG NIGHT doesn't know whether to be a drama or comedy, and succeeds at neither. The dialogue is flat and uninspired throughout, and the plot goes nowhere of interest. My wife, perhaps a dollop more impressed than I was, called the film a "character study". But no persona in this otherwise dull movie is engaging, and, indeed, I found Pascal's ebullient crassness positively annoying. About the only other good thing I can say about BIG NIGHT is that it uses as props some well-preserved, large tail-finned, period Cadillacs that will perhaps stimulate vintage car buffs.
Better films to rent that revolve around food preparation are MOSTLY MARTHA (2001) and EAT DRINK MAN WOMAN (1994). These, at least, portray characters to care about....more info
- A Great Film - Hollywood should pay attention
A movie that relies on subtlety, writing, and acting. Wonderful actors, good story. Was on my top 10 for 1996....more info
The absolute essence of this movie is captured beautifully in the last scene, what must be a ten minute single-shot take of breakfast in the kitchen. This is just a terrific film. If you enjoyed Milagro Beanfield War and Baghdad Cafe, check out Big Night....more info
- Hungry? You will be.
Though I wish I had the words to give it justice, I cannot even begin to describe what a magnificent achievement this movie is.
When I watched this movie for the first time in the theater, I joined in something remarkable. When the movie ended, the entire audience stood up and applauded. This is a film that simply goes beyond brilliant. It is so good, it is embarrassing. It throws you into it like few other films I have seen. It is sad, elating, poignant, funny and utterly remarkable.
This film is a story of two Italian immigrants trying to make it as restauranteurs in the United States, selling authentic fare against the Boyardee expectations of the general public. However, where the expectation is that the film will attack the unappreciative "philistines" of America head on it, instead, invites everybody into subverting those expectations with a combination of surprising humor and some of the most delectable comestibles celluloid has ever witnessed.
I must add, for the love of all that is holy, eat something before you watch this. The food that is thrown across the screen is beyond description. There is a bit where a cake-like pasta dish is cut into and, as they pull out the slice, an entire theater full of people could not help but let out a collective, "Unnnnngggggghhhh." Also, have a meal ready for afterward, preferably something Italian, because you could have a bender at a smorgasbord just before and you will be starving like a hunger-striker by the time the credits roll. Had this film existed in the late '40's, the British would have tortured Ghandi with it.
This is not a film of swordfights or gunplay or swashing buckles. It is a film of people. But brilliant people. It is like sitting down with a genius and having him/her explain his view of the universe to you: Simultaneously fascinating but somehow elusive. As though there is some jump that you instinctively know exists, but can't quite understand.
All I can say is, it is well worth the effort. It does not need special DVD features. It does not need director's commentary. It does not need interviews with the actors. Like a good, sorry, great meal, it simply needs to be itself....more info
- Oh Mylanta
This was not what I expected, I love "food" movies like "Eat drink man woman", "Tortilla Soup", "Like Water for Chocolate",This movie was just a long boring trek through bad accents and poorly lit italian food, I realize that the food was supposed to be showcased here, but it didnt wet my appetite a bit, a can of chef boyardee looks more appetizing. I was glad the restaurant tanked, that louis prima didnt show up. The "big night" turned out to be a tiny blip of a movie....more info
- All that Italian food just made me hungry
Recommended by my good friend Dee, I thought I give this one a try. The pace of this film is like that of a wonderful meal, considered, not rushed, and with attention to detail. Hard-edged business people often use salty language and such is the case here, by both Pascal and Secondo. Pascal is cavalier because he feels in charge of the world and Secondo is trying to figure out how not to be crushed by the weight of it. In Pascal's restaurant, people are having a wonderful time eating what clearly mediocre food is served with great fan fair. At The Paradise, the work in the spotless kitchen is done with the best ingredients and where only a perfect plate is allowed to be taken to the dining room. As is the custom, it is presented with an understated elegance.
During this film Stanley Tucci, plays Secondo, who manages to have a fling with both Isabella Rossellini and Minnie Driver. (This is the movie where it is proved that she is nine foot tall and all the stuff in "Good Will Hunting" about how she can dunk) Tony Shaloub plays Stanley Tucci's brother, as Primo, who is less talented on the woman front but is, in compensation, the superior chef. Both of them have a mixed relationship with Ian Holm who I feel lets the side down rather by doing too much of the acting stuff with a forced "eyetalian" accent. Two points here, firstly, all the male leads also crop up in supporting roles in A Life Less Ordinary and take the opportunity to show off their talents in these bigger roles. Secondly, if a fine actor like Ian Holm is the only disappointment in a movie that is quite a distinction. As the Big Night approaches, we share the preparation and presentation of multiple courses of delicious dishes, where any one could be on the cover of Gourmet magazine. Having a good time and good food is special.
In addition to this, the script and the direction is good - the movie is a miracle of brevity considering that, on repeated viewing, one can see that it is shot on a budget that wouldn't buy two lemon polenta cakes at The River Cafe. "Big Night" is one of the three cool indie movies that came out of America in 1997. Miss it and you probrably deserve to eat at McDonalds for the rest of your life.
Also recommended "Eat Drink, Man Woman," "Like Water for Chocolate," and "Babette's Feast."
- Love is not enough
"Big Night" is another sad movie for the entrepreneur, though not as sad as "Tucker". After all, more restaurants fail than industrial companies, and very frequently because they start with a dream of cooking outstanding food and little more to the plan. This movie is about more than a bad business plan. It's really about the building of community through a shared meal.
Italian brothers, significantly named Primo (Tony Shaloob, not Italian, but dark and hairy) and Secundo (writer/director and actual Italian-American Stanley Tucci) are chefs and owners of an Italian restaurant during the 1950s in the US. Primo, the artistic one of the duo, concocts exquisite and authentic Italian food. Secundo, who is also manager of the restaurant, stands outside his empty restaurant and watches the throngs standing in line for spaghetti and meatballs at the Italian place across the street. Facing foreclosure, the brothers make an all-or-nothing gamble to host famous Italian-American crooner Louis Primo and his band, hoping that a good recommendation from him will bring more discerning diners. They also impulsively invite everyone who has crossed their path during their stay in America: the cute flower shop girl Primo has been making eyes at, the Cadillac salesman who takes Secundo for a test drive, their best customer who is a Bohemian painter, and more.
It's easy to forget how foreign Italians seemed a generation or two ago, and how their less familiar foods were viewed with suspicion.
This is an affectionate and only slightly ironic portrayal of two men who predate any ability to talk about their feelings. It's a worshipful depiction of Italian cuisine and elevates food and cooking to the level of worship.
I recommend this film for anyone who is thinking about starting a restaurant. Also just a good movie that's about more than food....more info
- The best food film ever!
Makes you want to go out and cook!...more info
- ITALIAN REBORN
THIS MOVIE FROM THE OPENING CLAUDIO VILLA STORNELLI MADE ME HAVE THE GREATEST DEJA VU IN ONE'S LIFE.. ANYONE WHO WANTS TO WATCH AN ENTERTAINING, WARM HEARTED, WITTY SCRIPT, ETC SHOULD SEE THIS MOVIE. FROM THE SUPERB ACTING ( TOTAL CAST ) , TO THE FANTASTIC MUSIC, TO THE GREAT FOOD SCENES, THIS MOVIE HAS IT ALL.. IT WAS CLAUDIO VILLA'S OPENING SONG THAT REACHED MY ITALIAN SOUL AND I BECAME A FANATIC FAN OF HIS MUSIC SINCE.. THIS MOVIE RANKS WITH GOND WITH THE WIND, LAURA, GODFATHER 1, CASABLANCA, DAIL M FOR MURDER AS ONE OF THE GREAT MOVIES THAT CAN BE WATCHED OVER AND OVER AGAIN.. ENJOY...........more info
- The celluloid equivalent of a Poppy Z. Brite novel.
Big Night (Stanley Tucci, 1996)
Big Night is the quintessential foodie film. That's pretty much all you need to know to figure out whether you're going to enjoy this movie or not; it's all about the food. It does have a plot, but that takes a backseat to the food-- which is just as it should be.
Primo (Tony Shalhoub) and Secondo (Stanley Tucci) are brothers who own an Italian restaurant in Brooklyn. It's on the brink of closing. Pascal (Ian Holm), the owner of a competing joint across the street, offers to set the two up cooking dinner for Louis Prima, one huge blowout they can use to gain publicity and get the restaurant back on its feet. The brothers accept, and the planning begins.
The bulk of this movie is, in fact, about planning a bash. There are some subplots, and there is, of course, the feast itself, an extended scene guaranteed to cause watering mouths among the entire audience, but the meat of it is what really goes on when you're trying to gather up a whole lot of ingredients and do a whole lot of cooking under the gun. And you might not think it, but that's riveting. Stanley Tucci gets a chance to put his acting talents to the test, and he does a great job at playing a frustrated restauranteur short on time and patience. The supporting cast plays off him well, and of course, the food is sumptuous. If you haven't seen it yet, you want to. *** ?...more info
- Quality and brotherhood
This movie take's its time like a fine Italian meal so loosen the belt, settle in and savor the goodness. It's about quality versus cheap marketing and brotherhood versus hollow ambition. If that last sentence makes no sense to you then just watch it for the FOOD! One of my all time favorites. The soundtrack is great to play while cooking spaghetti for your friends....more info
- Hey, Marc Anthony is in this movie!
...but I don't think he has a single line. I don't even know the name of his character, but he was right in the middle of this struggle between two brothers running this Italian restaurant. Primo the expert Chef who refuses to compromise his art, and Secondo the businessman. Secondo seems to be in charge here, yet he respects his brother's opinion, as demonstrated when he decides to keep risotto on the menu although it is not a favorite with the customers. Pascal, the competitor across the street, gives the customer simple dishes that they demand on the Jersey shore. The brother's Paradise restaurant is doomed to failure.
Ultimately this was a movie about the value of family, art and perserverance. The movie began at a slow pace as we learned about the struggle, but the pace and humor picked up as the Big Night approached.
Little things make this movie great. I like how Secondo nudges Primo to make a connection with a woman that he clearly likes. As Secondo test drives a Cadillac, he asks if the car is "this year's model" without actually saying the year, leaving car buffs estimating that it had to be late fifties.
Isabella Rosellini is beautiful and Minnie Driver is the proverbial girl next door. Secondo looks impeccable in his suits and Pascal's excitement is catching as well as funny.
Subtlety runs throughout this movie, except for the scene where the brothers wrestle in the sand, exchanging dialogue in Italian (subtitled) the entire time. It isn't long after this though, that the movie wraps up with a powerful piece of film with no dialogue at all that says it all: this family is strong enough to endure this trial....more info
- Top Ten Food Movie
I spent two weeks cruising the Italian neighborhoods of San Francisco looking for a restaurant like the one portrayed so richly in this movie. And I found one! Unfortunately, as might have been predicted from the film, it lasted only a few months before folding.
There's more to Big Night than the food. It's outrageously funny, for one thing, a quality many reviewers seemed not to appreciate. The acting is brilliant; for once, everyone acts in ensemble. It's original, not quite any Hollywood genre. It's poignant, in emotional terms most people can find believable. Is it a GREAT movie? Dumb question! It's a movie you'll enjoy and remember....more info
- Great movie!
As "Like Water For Chocolate" defines the Mexican experience, "Big Night" does the same for the Italian immigrant. A touching film about two brothers and their struggles both with each other and the new world. The eldest brother, Primo, played by Tony Shaloub, shows a true passion for his food that elicits laughter, admiration, and empathy. And the food!! He cooks up a veritable feast, culminating in a Timpani that will have you salivating like a padlocked dog.
Stanley Tucci plays the younger brother Secundo, who worries about more practical matters, like paying the bills. He and Primo go 15 rounds over the menu, produce, and every other little detail.
If the crescendo of the movie is the all night feast scene, its denoumont is the next morning. The love exhibited between the two brothers is obvious and moving.
The film features a soundtrack starring jazz great Louis Prima. Wonderful stuff that will inspire you to buy the soundtrack as well....more info
- Sweet and sumptuous...
This sweet little film will make you hungry for a nice big Italian meal. Great performances all around and a fun soundtrack.
The problem with it, ultimately, IS the simplicity of the story. Rather than tell us something important about the relationship between two immigrant brothers, it ends up being little more than a long pilot movie (albeit a very well done one!) for "Big Night---the sitcom."
Even so, it is a fun way to spend 109 minutes...which is all this DVD has to offer....more info
- feast of the heart
"Big Night" is more than just a film about food, it's about heart, brotherhood and the American Dream. Primo (Tony Shalhoub) and Secundo (Stanley Tucci) are Italian brothers struggling to make their small restaurant a success. Secondo (called "Seco" for short) is thankful to be in the United States. His English is strong and he sees America as the land of opportunity. His brother Primo is an artist with food - an amazing talent who is so passionate about food, he refers to the lackluster menu of the restaurant across the street as the "rape of cuisine." And he's not kidding when he says it, either.
Seco may have been born in Italy, but he's always been an American in his heart. He understands the culture and knows that you have to give Americans what they want. Primo is insulted by the reprobate palate of their backwards clientele and refuses to compromise.
Many plots intertwine... Seco's romance with Phyllis (Minnie Driver) contrasted with his affair with Gabriella (the stunningly gorgeous Isabella Rosellini), and the sword of Damocles hanging over their heads - the impending foreclosure of their restaurant.
Primo and Secondo have one last shot at success as an impending visit by Jazz performer Louis Prima promises to put their little piece of Italy on the map.
Ian Holm plays their nemesis, Pascal, a competing restaurateur who admires Primo's talents and has no qualms about ruining the lives of his fellow Italian-Americans in the spirit of not-so-friendly competition.
Everything hinges on the big night - where their friends and some of the local "who's who" muckety-mucks experience Primo's genius. One course after another and with sexual inuendos, those who are feasting moan in delight. As the dessert tray approaches, the bloated guests get ready to undo their pants to stuff themselves even more.
In the end, the big night is truly a big event, but just another night. The real story is the love of these two brothers. They drive each other crazy, but they love one another. Nothing ends up in a neat, tidy little bow in the end - just like real life, Primo and Seco have no idea what tomorrow may bring for them, but they will face it together.
As a DVD, this is pretty underwhelming. The menu looks like it was it was drawn by Stevie Wonder and other than a trailer and an option for subtitles, there are no features worth writing home about. I have a 7-year-old DVD player and still, the DVD looks great on my HDTV, even without progressive scan or up-converting.
I would have liked to have seen interviews with the cast and directors... but as a film, it was a delight to watch....more info
- Remarkable, Simply Remarkable
If you enjoyed Babette's Feast or Eat Drink Man Woman, you can well be expected to enjoy Big Night. This charming film is intelligent, subtle, honest, and thoroughly enchanting. The characters are not cardboard cut-outs, they are fully developed with a complex set of emotions and motivations. Truly, this is not the run-of-the-mill Hollywood gruel; rather it is an intricate risotto, full of subtlety and nuance.
Messieurs Tucci and Shaloub are wonderful in their portrayal of Primo and Secundo, two Italian brothers trying to operate a restaurant of quality - not pretense, just quality. Standing in their way of success are customers who do not appreciate truly good food and another retauranteur, Pascal, who caters to the latter's plebian appetites. Interwoven into the story are the romantic interests of the brothers, each as different in substance and execution as the brothers themselves.
The pace of the story is slow and gentle, like a fine meal. Nothing is rushed nor is anything unjustly delayed. Those who have accustomed themselves to the fast pace of Hollywood movies are likely to be shocked by the simplicity and subtlety of Big Night. This is not a story that advances itself by cheap tricks or flashy scenes; it moves at the same civilized pace of Chef Primo's magnificent banquet. Leaving the viewer to digest each course without being rushed.
Truly, this is a movie for those who, due to the appalling quality of what passes for modern movies, have thought themselves not fond of movies. To see and enjoy this film is to renew not only your faith in the potential of the cinema, it is to review your own life, for there is a little philosophy in the movie as well. However, it will not demand an answer from you, it will merely suggest a few questions to you; whether you answer them or not is your decision....more info
- One great film...
Big Night, since it's theatrical release, has slyly slipped into my list of favorite movies. Written and directed by Stanley Tucci and Cambell Scott, two fairly well accomplished actors who also show up in the film. Still despite an ensemble cast, the real star of this film is their great screenplay.
Stanley Tucci plays Secondo, the younger of two Italian brothers who have immigrated to New York in the 50's, and have started an authentic Italian restarant that struggles by being across the street from a much more popular and successful mainstream restarant. Tony Shalhoub, one of today's greatest character actors, steals many of the scenes, as the pedantic older brother and master chef, Primo.
Again there are great performances by many actors, Ian Holm, Isabella Rossellini, Minnie Driver and even pop singer Marc Anthony appears as the bus boy, the first character you see in the film.
The characters are realistic, the audience is never patronized, and the story flows very well. The soundtrack is amazing and plays an important role in this film. Especially watch for the last scene, a long uncut scene with almost no dialogue....more info
- A Night to Remember with Primo and Secondo
No matter who we are or where we go, one of the common threads that binds us together as a species is the fact that our lives, in one way or another, are filled with hopes and dreams. The aspirations may vary, and of course change from individual to individual according to wants and needs, but irrefutably it is there, and more often than not has a significant bearing on who we are and what we become. And it is that kind of ambition and the need to succeed that generates the impetus in "Big Night," a drama set to the tune of real life, directed by Stanley Tucci and Campbell Scott; a film that explores what it means to follow your heart and hold on to that dream, even in the face of adversity. Finally, it's a story about love, trust, truth and betrayal, all of the things that make up what we fondly, and often exasperatingly, call "life."
It's the 1950s; two brothers, Primo (Tony Shalhoub) and Secondo (Stanley Tucci) have recently emigrated from Italy and landed on the Jersey shore where they are trying to make a go of their Italian restaurant, the "Paradise." Business, however, is not good; Primo is a genius chef, but insists on preparing meals fit for the gods (like his exquisite risotto) rather than the mere mortals who only occasionally stop in to sample the elegant offerings of their board of fare. Secondo, the businessman of the two and the visible presence in the restaurant, has tried time and again to reason with Primo in regards to the menu, but to no avail. And now, the Paradise is on the verge of going broke; the bank is about to foreclose.
Help often comes from the least likely quarter, however, and so it is here, when Pascal (Ian Holm), the owner of a rival (and quite successful) restaurant offers to do them a favor. He offers to call his friend, the famous jazz musician Louis Prima, to invite him and his entire band and entourage to dinner at the Paradise, which just may provide the shot in the arm the restaurant needs to stay afloat. And so Primo and Secondo prepare for the biggest night of their lives, the one "big night" that is going to save them and keep their dream of making it to the top-- "their" way-- alive.
Working from a screenplay written by Tucci and Joseph Tropiano (Tucci's cousin), directors Tucci and Scott deliver a thoroughly engaging and entertaining film, a little gem that is worth any number of Hollywood blockbusters put together. The characters are sharply drawn and presented with humor and poignancy that resonates with honesty and realism. It's the kind of film that opens itself up and invites you in with the promise of a sumptuous feast awaiting between the opening and closing frames, then makes good on that promise. Collectively, the filmmakers have a studied and subtle touch that makes this film appealing and accessible to everyone and anyone who has ever aspired to something better. And they make it very clear that theirs is a pursuit of the heart, rather than the cold comfort of a viable bottom line. They actively seek out the humanity that resides at the center of their story, and finding it, they convey it to their audience with a sure hand devoid of any pretensions or undo sentimentality. There is, without question, sensitivity in their approach, but it is restrained and effective and allows the drama to play out in very real terms. The characters are people you quickly grow to like, similar in nature to those who populate Bonnie Hunt's wonderful "Return To Me" (which starred Minnie Driver, who is also featured in this one).
One of the elements that sells a film, even one which seemingly has everything going for it to begin with, is the performances; and the ones here are first rate all around. As the brothers, Shalhoub and Tucci each take an understated approach that makes their characters convincing and real. Tucci, especially, lends incredible nuance to his portrayal of Secondo. Watching him perform a basic task like preparing food in the kitchen becomes spellbinding; the way he approaches the counter, scrapes a knife on the cutting board before he begins chopping and slicing, the second nature of the way he wipes his hands on his apron or removes a skillet hanging overhead and places it on the stove. It's all SO real that it puts you right there in the kitchen with him. And it makes you a part of the experience rather than merely an observer. The same can be said for Shalhoub. His portrayal of Primo is a study in precision, and the mannerisms shared by Primo and Secondo and the way they connect with one another makes the casting of them as brothers entirely believable. Their relationship has that necessary sense of lifelong history about it that makes it genuine.
As Pascal, Ian Holm gives an energetic and larger-than-life performance that makes his character a decided presence in the film, and it makes his pivotal role in the story convincing. And as Pascal's girl, Gabriella, Isabella Rossellini leaves a lasting impression, as well, with a performance that is discriminatingly seductive.
As Secondo's romantic interest, Phyllis, Minnie Driver is charming and irresistible. Her screen time is comparatively limited, but Driver makes what she has significant, with an expressiveness that makes Phyllis endearing. And with her eyes and facial expressions, Driver speaks volumes. It's a winning performance that makes Phyllis an unforgettable character.
Also effective in smaller roles are Allison Janney as Ann; Campbell Scott as Bob, the most convincing car salesman to grace the screen since Kurt Russell's Rudy Russo in "Used Cars;" and Liev Schreiber as Leo. The ending of "Big Night" is somewhat ambiguous; but staying true to the story, it is the ambiguity of "life" itself. And a more perfect ending there could not possibly be....more info
- great music, food and conversation...what more could you wan
THIS IS A FUN FILM! And a well-made one too. It's worth seeing because of the great blend of music, dialog and personalities. Most especially the two Italian brothers and their affection and humor is a wonderful experience to be part of. And you do get taken in. Its like the great food and wine and music...It is contagious. Do yourself a flavor...take a taste....more info
- Great Little Story of Italians, Food, and how they relate.
`Big Night' is co-writer / co-director Stanley Tucci's contribution to the select collection of `food films'. The leading members of this very gourmet list of films is the Japanese `Tampopo' and the French `Babette's Feast'. If you look at it cross-eyed, you may even add Peter Greenway's `The Cook, The Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover'. `Tampopo' is hands down the most interesting of these, but `Big Night' can hold its own in this crowd of culinary celluloid.
Like Siskel and Ebert, you will like this movie a lot if you like movies by Fellini and Renoir. I sensed more than a few little echos here and there of Fellini's `La Dolce Vita', although I confess Tucci simply does not have the great touch of the Fredrico Fellini / Marcello Mastroianni team. But that bar is so high, Tucci Company still manage to come in with a remarkable little film.
For fans of some of the players in this film such as Minnie Driver, Isabella Rosselini, Tony Shalhoub, and `C. J. Craig', Allison Janney, you may be disappointed at the rather thin part each of these actors receives, although all but Miss West Wing carry their roles off with great skill. While on the surface the main drama seems to be between Tucci and Shalhoub, the two immigrant Italian brothers who own and run a small high quality restaurant in 1957 New Jersey, the best tension is between Tucci's character and Ian Holm (later to famously appear in the role of Bilbo Baggins in `Lord of the Rings'). Holm plays a competing restaurateur whose very successful establishment is just down the block from the brothers' weakly performing `Restorante'.
The setup for understanding the difficulties the brothers face is what we see on a typically light night when a typical 1950's American woman is served a seafood risotto and simply cannot understand the dish, as she was expecting spaghetti with the rice and sees no seafood on the dish. This sets up the culinary interest to the foodies in the audience who are fully aware of the difference between classic Italian fare and the `Italian-American' cuisine being sold down the street at Holm's restaurant. Of course chef and older brother Shalhoub is totally unsympathetic to these uneducated tastes and balks at simply making a side dish of spaghetti to go along with the rice.
This movie was made before 2001 and Shalhoub shows absolutely no trace of his Emmy award winning Adrian Monk persona. Behind his great Groucho mustache, one can almost not even recognize him, as even the quality of his voice seems changed to fit the part.
The driving force behind the story is the fact that the bank will no longer extend the deadline on the loan for their restaurant, so the brothers need to come up with much more money than they currently take in over the course of a week. Holm offers the suggestion that part of the success of his restaurant lies in the interest he generates with celebrities who come to eat at his place and leave lots of autographed photographs behind. So, Holm suggests that he will attract Louie Prima to come to the brothers' restaurant to eat on a particular `Big Night'
Preparation of the food for this event brings culinary interest back to the forefront when we see Shalhoub and his assistant hand make pasta which is then assembled into that most elaborate dish an `Il Timpano', a great upside down casserole filled with pasta, sauce, sausage, and all sorts of other good things to eat.
A secondary plot is the relation of Tucci with girlfriend Minnie Driver complicated with an affair with Holm's wife, played by Isabella Rosselini. The end of the movie leaves many of these relationships in disarray, most especially the one between the brothers.
It is totally proper that almost all the music is from recordings of performances by Louie Prima and wife Keely Smith. The feeling of being filmed in the mid-1950's is almost perfect except for the to me dreadful coloring which may work on `The Matrix' but which does not work on northern New Jersey. Everything looks red and green. The movie would have been much better served by having been filmed in black and white a la Woody Allen of `Manhatten' or in a lush 1950's Technicolor where the colors are more real than in real life.
This is a great little movie with the one property that makes buying it on DVD worth while. It will yield additional pleasures on a second and third and fourth viewing, as long as you liked it to begin with. I bought it and I was not disappointed.
It is impossible to overpraise this film. It depicts two Italian immigrant brothers trying to make a go of a small restaurant in the face of heavy competition from another Italian immigrant, wonderfully played by the great Ian Holm, who runs a larger and far more successful bar. Primo, the older brother, is a master chef who refuses to compromise his principles by appealing to what is popular in order to attract a much larger clientele. Secondo, the younger brother, who has been in America somewhat longer than his brother, is the restaurant's manager and must deal with its day to day operations and, more urgently, with impending foreclosure due to financial difficulties. The problems of art vs. commerce causes major conflicts between the two brothers as they prepare for the "big night" which could make or break their business.
This is a film of great warmth, humor, and heart. We root for the brothers while being aware that they are in the troes of a sinking ship. The apex of the movie is the sumptuous, eye-popping meal that Primo creates for the "big night." After seeing this film you're going to want to jump in your car and head for that tiny Italian restaurant to which you have always wanted to go, but was 100 miles away....more info
I love Louis Prima. This movie will have you loving him too...more info
- Must See More Than Once
This is the only movie I have seen five times within a 3-month period, taking different groups of people each time. This is primarily a movie about relationships, and they're portrayed with gusto and with as many dimensions as can be brought to the screen.
This movie's soundtrack rates just as highly (with me.) Get both....more info
Great acting, beuatiful cinematography, wonderful writing, mouth-watering food, good humored jokes, this is one of the most likeable little movies I've ever seen. Not much for story, but it won't be missed. You will be satisfied. You'll still want more....more info
- Chef John at foodwishes.com says:
When a chef recommends a restaurant you know that it's a good place to eat, and when a chef recommends a food film... Chef John over at Foodwishes.com has this to say about the movie:
"I've probably watched it over 30 times. I consider it the best restaurant movie ever made, and no movie that I've seen before or since has captured the experience of the food business so brilliantly as this one. The film is the story of two Italian brothers who own a restaurant called "Paradise". Primo (played by Tony Shalhoub), is an intense, passionate chef who can't cope with his customers' expectations of "real" (Americanized) Italian food. The other brother, Secondo (played by Stanley Tucci), is the restaurant manager, who is in a constant battle with his brother over the balance between making money, and staying true to their culinary roots.
This is a great movie, even if you are not a "foodie," as its very funny, sweet, sad, and has an amazing sound track of music from that period. Also, any movie with Isabella Rossellini is worth seeing, and try and see if you can identify the busboy who later (in real life) goes on to have quite a successful music career. Anyone thinking of going to culinary school and/or starting a restaurant, should be made to watch this movie first. It gives such a perfect study of the agony and ecstasy of the restaurant experience."...more info