Official Selection, 1996 Toronto International Film Festival
Price: $4.99 + taxes and fees
In the 1950s, two brothers try to save their struggling Jersey Shore restaurant by throwing an elaborate feast for the visiting Louis Prima. That’s technically the plot of Big Night, which marked the directorial debut of actors Stanley Tucci and Campbell Scott, but there’s so much more going on than that. Like with any great dish, each ingredient of the film fulfills a specific purpose, enhancing Tucci’s central performance as the put-upon restaurateur Secondo. Tony Shalhoub’s focus as Secondo’s imperious chef brother, Primo, mixes with Ian Holm’s boisterous energy as the brothers’ showboating rival Pascal, which is tempered by Isabella Rossellini’s poised turn as Pascal’s wife, Gabriella — which is balanced by Minnie Driver’s frustration as Primo’s on-again/off-again girlfriend Phyllis, who is sent spinning again by co-director Scott’s quietly loopy turn as a very precise car salesman. Made at the peak of the American indie wave but unlike anything else in it, Big Night has only grown richer and more flavourful in the quarter-century since its TIFF premiere. Just don’t watch it on an empty stomach.
Content advisory: coarse language