Big Night (1996, Stanley Tucci and Campbell Scott)
Big Night is a movie that I could sit down and watch right now and be completely entertained throughout. It's funny, has a great script, it's got tremendous performances, it has good food on screen, and it's incredibly easy to watch. Allegedly, Stanley Tucci began writing a script he was passionate about while working on a movie that he hated working on. He figured if he wanted to make movies that he cared about so much, he might as well create those movies himself. He takes the lead role of Secondo, an Italian who immigrated to America with his chef brother Primo (their names coming from the first and second courses of an Italian meal). They run a restaurant in a seaside town (I said NYC in my original review, but having since watched it many times, I realize that they never say where they are, and are most likely along the Jersey shore). A failing restaurant, which Secondo knows too well, as the keeper of their finances, and Primo is completely ignorant of, as he only has his brain in the food that he serves. This is particularly painful when they see the runaway success of an "Italian" restaurant down the street, where Primo and Secondo are both disgusted to see they serve spaghetti and meatballs, a dish that doesn't exist in Italy.
I love the brotherly chemistry that Tucci has with Tony Shaloub. Although of Lebanese descent, Shaloub is flawless as an Italian still so much of his country that he and Tucci are constantly switching between English and Italian. Tucci has said "I thought I loved food when I started making Big Night, but I loved it even more after. It was never my intention to make a food movie. The movie was about the relationship between art and commerce, the art being food." But even that seems shortsighted in regards to this movie's power. I can't think of a better description of what Big Night is about than I did when I first wrote about the movie, Big Night = Life. It's about everything that happens to us in our lives, romances beginning and ending, relationships being tested, trying to do something you believe in, connecting with people, loving your family, and definitely about eating good food. I feel good about myself and the world around me when I see Tucci and Shaloub hug each other so lovingly in the final shot. We don't know what will happen to them specifically, but we know they'll be ok. Nothing like leaving a movie feeling as though everything is gonna be alright no matter what.