Reviewed for FilmFactual.com by Karen Benardello
Director: Catherine Hardwicke
Writers: Michael J. Feldman and Debbie Jhoon
Cast: Toni Collette, Monica Bellucci, Sophia Nomvete, Giulio Corso, Francesco Mastroianni, Alfonso Perugini, Eduardo Scarpetta, Tim Daish and Tommy Rodger
Opens: April 14, 2023
Screened at: Tribeca Screening Room, New York City, NY, 4/11/23
Women, no matter how successful they are and what they’ve accomplished in their lives so far, must often contend with the feeling of not being appreciated by many of the closest people in their lives, from their family members to their colleagues. That universal sense of staying strong and achieving their dreams while also wanting to feel appreciated is powerfully showcased in the feminist-driven crime action comedy, ‘Mafia Mamma.’
The movie was written by Michael J. Feldman and Debbie Jhoon. ‘Mafia Mamma’ was directed by Catherine Hardwicke, who previously helmed the female-driven films ‘Twilight’ and ‘Thirteen.’ The new feature reunites the director with Oscar-nominated actress Toni Collette, who previously worked together on the 2015 romantic comedy-drama, ‘Miss You Already.’
The filmmakers crafted an inspiring, strong-willed protagonist for the performer to portray in ‘Mafia Mamma,’ which Bleecker Street is releasing in theaters today, April 14. The character, Kristin Balbano Jordan, uses her skills that went unappreciated for so long to reinvent herself and turn her dreams into her destiny.
‘Mafia Mamma’ follows Kristin, the titular Los Angeles-based protagonist, as she realizes she’s in need of a change. Contending with her son, Domenick (Tommy Rodger), heading off to college, discovering her husband, Paul (Tim Daish,) is being unfaithful and her male boss and colleagues not taking her seriously at her pharmaceutical marketing executive job, she’s determined to do whatever it takes to improve her life. She wants her empathy and problem-solving talents to be considered an asset, not a liability.
Kristin’s life suddenly gets the boost she needs when she receives unexpected call from a woman she’s never met, Bianca (Monica Bellucci). The woman on the other end of the call informs Kristin her grandfather in Italy has died, and encourages her to leave California for Rome to attend the funeral.
Hoping this will be the inspiration she needs to improve her life, Kristin agrees to fly to Rome to attend to her family’s business. But once she arrives, she’s shocked to discovers that the family business is organized crime, and the Balbanos’ rivals are now targeting them in order to claim their territory. In order to help her newfound family survive, Kristin must respect her grandfather’s wishes for her to stay in Italy and take over his organization.
Initially reluctant, the former people-pleaser realizes that when not dodging assassination attempts, being a Mafia don has its benefits: a group that respects what she has to offer, a fantastic wardrobe, Bianca’s guidance and a break from her disrespectful husband and colleagues at home in L.A.
The new job and lifestyle transition is a big leap for a woman who was too busy raising a family to ever find time to watch ‘The Godfather.’ But as she becomes a Mafia Mamma, Kristin sees how the Balbano family -like herself – can go from old ways to new beginnings.
Anchored by stellar performances by Collette and Bellucci as the comedy’s fierce, independent lead female characters and directed by the visionary and inventive Hardwicke, the feature is a humor-fueled tale of female empowerment. The two actresses and filmmaker infused their experiences into the project’s original story that proves even the most successful women want and need to be appreciated. The trio infused Kristen and Bianca with a sense of relatability as they realize they have to be strong on their own and defend their senses of worth.
Kristin’s newfound sense of purpose and new life opportunities highlight the universal feelings that many women face as they approach middle-age: not respected by their spouse or at work, despite caring about everybody else’s feelings. Through the protagonist’s newfound genuine connection with Bianca and sense of worth in Rome, despite her extended family’s illegal business dealings, Collette’s performance proves that mothers can still be intelligent, determined and empathetic.
The feminist drive behind Kristin’s new sense of independence and purpose is supported by the visually stunning settings created by the movie’s production design/set decorator, Livia Borgognoni. ‘Mafia Mamma’s vivacious feminist message and enthralling performances by Collette and Bellucci are supported in part by its atmospheric locations that were crafted by Borgognoni. The film was shot entirely in centuries-old buildings in Rome, which guaranteed enormous verità for both the story’s comedy, character development and culture.
The universal sense of strong, independent women like Kristin and Bianca demanding respect while pursuing their dreams is captivatingly displayed in ‘Mafia Mamma.’ Under Hardwicke’s stellar direction, Collette and Bellucci gave aspirational performances as the comedy’s fierce, independent lead female characters. The movie is a powerful, humor-fueled tale of female empowerment that stunningly captures the importance of women of all ages to pursue their dreams on their own terms.