Directed by Stanley Tucci and Campbell Scott

Starring Stanley Tucci, Tony Shalhoub, Isabella Rossellini, Minnie Driver, Ian Holm and Cambell Scott.

This film is on the Best of 1996 list.

"Big Night"

Opened: Sept. 27, 1996 | Rated: R

Like many movies in which food plays a major part, it's pointless buying popcorn or candy on your way in to see "Big Night."

I ran out of the theater when the credits rolled, hungry beyond belief and the best thing I could find in the lobby (I was lurking around to sneak into another picture) was a hot dog. What a let down.

"Big Night" is one of those movies in which the food is a character. It's preparation brings scenes to life, it's consumption has a Pavlovian effect on the audience and bring characters together in a way that no other plot device can.

Co-written (with cousin Joseph Tropiano) and co-directed (with Campbell Scott) by star Stanley Tucci, "Big Night" is one of the best pictures of 1996. At the heart of this story of a struggling Italian restaurant are two argumentative immigrant brothers, Primo and Secundo Pilaggi (Tucci and Tony Shalhoub) who have thrown their hearts into their little bistro in early 1960s Long Island.

As the bank is about to foreclose, they put their all into one big night, having been told a famous Italian singer would be visiting their restaurant that night with a press entourage in tow.

The relationship between the brothers, their conflicts and their strong family ties, is played out over the preparation of meals and the running of the business. Primo, a passionate, exacting cook who refuses to pander to the wimpy palate of American customers who want spaghetti with everything. Secundo is the business-savvy, left-brained one who realizes this is the restaurant's last chance.

The climax of the film is, of course, a meal -- multiple courses cut with shots of guests looking absolutely orgasmic over their fantastic dinners.

Insecurity, passion, love, lust, life lessons and the American Dream all play a part in "Big Night," and each touches a nerve under the fastidious direction of Tucci and Scott.

Another score for "Big Night": it's the only movie I've can remember about Italian immigrants that hasn't a single mobster. However, like mobster movies, they do seem to have mastered English swear words -- everyone seems to have a penchant for saying "fuck" unnecessarily and it gets a little old.

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