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Two Family House

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4

All-Reviews.com Movie Review: Two Family House

Starring: Michael Rispoli, Kelly Macdonald
Director: Raymond DeFelitta
Rated: R
RunTime: 104 Minutes
Release Date: October 2000
Genre: Drama


*Also starring: Kevin Conway, Matt Servitto, Rosemary DeAngelis, Victor Arnold, Richard B. Shull, Anthony Arkin, Katherine Narducci



Reviewer Roundup
1.  Steve Rhodes review follows movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review
2.  Harvey Karten read the review ---

Review by Steve Rhodes
3 stars out of 4

Writer/director Raymond De Felitta's TWO FAMILY HOUSE, set on Staten Island in 1956, is a delightful movie that works on two levels. On one, it is an amalgamation of the best of the 1950's sitcoms from "The Honeymooners" to "The Life of Riley." On the other, it is a richly evocative drama that easily wins your heart. Full of honest moments, even if always told with a comedic flair, the film feels like a blend of a true story and a fairy tale.

Buddy Visalo (Michael Rispoli) has a dream of being a famous singer. Once he almost realized it when Arthur Godfrey asked him to come in for an audition. Buddy didn't, but Julius LaRosa did, and Buddy has forever since regretted it. He is a blue-collar worker who makes his living as a machinist, but he has had a series of failed, small-business ventures. Finally, he sees a way to make his dreams come true.

He buys a dilapidated two-family house in which he plans to live in upstairs while singing in a yet-to-be-constructed bar downstairs. This means that he and his wife, Estelle (Kathrine Narducci, "The Sopranos"), can stop living with her parents as they have been for the past 10 years. ("The Perry Como Show," which transfixes the in-laws, has been providing Buddy and Estelle the golden, one time per week when they can have sex.) Estelle isn't wild about the bar idea and even tries to spend them into bankruptcy at one point so that Buddy will be forced to give it up. She doesn't think much of Buddy or his pals, referring to them as "a bunch of knuckleheads."

The initial complication to Buddy's big idea comes in the form of two tenants, an obnoxious lush, Jim O'Neary (Kevin Conway), and his very pregnant wife, Mary (Kelly MacDonald, TRAINSPOTTING), who refuse to vacate the premises. The arrival of their surprisingly half-black son breaks this logjam, causing Jim to flee, never to be seen again. This also makes Mary into a social pariah, accorded status below that of a streetwalker.

Buddy, taking pity on Mary, arranges for her to be a "kept woman" in a secret apartment. They form a strong but strange bond in which she insists on calling him Mr. Visalo and prefers that he refer to her as Mrs. O'Neary. He cooks for her and confides in her, but their close relationship never appears to go much beyond a few shared kisses. She tries to help him come to grips with his feelings, telling him that he shouldn't feel bad when he cries. "You're a broad," he replies in his typical, 50s macho vernacular. "You're supposed to cry."

The film is narrated by her son as an adult, giving it an extra dose of realism. One of the typical tales concerns Buddy and Estelle's "legendary fight" about their entire 11 years of marriage that went on late into the night.

The film's lush score by Stephen Endelman matches perfectly the bright and happy primary colors of Michael Mayers's cinematography. The vintage automobiles are so overly perfect that they are like a running joke. Every car is spotless and looks like it just left the dealer's showroom. Staten Island in the 50s must have been free of birds and rain.

"I've got talent! I could be somebody!" Buddy screams at Estelle in lines reminiscent of Marlon Brando's famous ones. Buddy is an everyman character, whose big dreams may never come true, but realizing his smaller ones may prove just as satisfying.

TWO FAMILY HOUSE runs 1:44. It is rated R for language and brief sexuality and would be fine for teenagers.

Copyright 2000 Steve Rhodes

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