September 25, 2003  
Volume 97, Issue 16  

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Mambo Italiano comes out as a hit

By Paolo Zinatelli
Gazette Staff

Mambo Italiano

Starring: Luke Kirby, Ginette Reno, Paul Sorvino, Mary Walsh
Directed by: Emile Gaudreault

The comparison has often been made that Mambo Italiano is nothing more than an Italian remake of My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

The comparison, however, would be wrong. While both movies are about "ethnic" families dealing with an issue that seems shocking at first, that is where the similarities end.

Mambo Italiano is about an Italian-Canadian family living in Montreal. The parents, Gino and Maria, are immigrants from the old country and while they have been in Canada for almost 50 years, they still retain their old world mentality. When their son Angelo, who first disappointed his parents by declaring he wanted to be a television writer, decides to move out of the house - without getting married first - the parents can't understand why.

Maria is heartbroken and in tears and Gino tells his son it would be best if he would just "go and don't look back." Their heartache is eased somewhat when Angelo moves in with his childhood friend and fellow Italian, Nino. This doesn't last long, however, as another shocking secret is soon revealed.

Angelo and Nino aren't just roommates, they're also lovers. Nino is a cop and would prefer to keep their relationship "in the closet." However, Angelo doesn't feel the same and comes out to his parents. The parents' reaction is as expected. Shock. Anger. Crying. Yelling. And lots of it.

The characters in the movie are well-played, yet they are as stereotypical as would be expected. There is the overreactive mother who feels death would be better than having a gay son. The father desperately scrambles for someone to blame for all this. There is also an older sister who is unmarried, lives at home and is in therapy trying to deal with the problems of being in this family.

Sorvino - who you may recognize from very old Law and Order reruns - is excellently cast as Gino. Reno plays the Italian mother just as well. In fact, everyone plays their characters excellently, except for Mary Walsh. As Nino's mother, she may purport to be from Sicily, but you can still hear her Newfoundland accent coming through, leaving you to wonder where she's really from.

On a side note, in going to see this movie, most theatre-goers know what the subject matter at hand is. That's why it was so funny and ridiculous to hear so many loud gasps when Angelo and Nino shared an on-screen kiss.

The movie's underlying theme is that "being gay and Italian is worse than death," a phrase used throughout the movie. It shows the family dealing with the shock of their son's coming out and eventually coming to terms with it. While at first the parents come to grips with it out of spite - a bit appalling at first - they do finally come around for the right reason: their love for Angelo.

Mambo Italiano takes an important subject and deals with it in a humourous way. It's a light-hearted movie that, in the end, proves being gay and Italian isn't worse than death.



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