American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
Danny Aiello is an actor to depend on when you want a tough guy with a tender side, a sweet guy who can turn hard, and "Brooklyn Lobster" is a movie founded on his ability to show those two sides without seeming to shift gears. It's as if his nature is at war with itself. He loves his family with a genuine passion, and he runs a lobster house in Brooklyn that is his life's blood, and he's one of those guys, we all know a few, who thinks he expresses his love by the way he works so hard. It's a surprise to him, and it hurts, when his wife of many years tells him, "I've been alone throughout this entire marriage."
If you join your family and your work, they are likely to go down together. It is Christmas time at Giorgio's Lobster Bar in Brooklyn, as you can tell because of the large inflated Santa lobster balloon that floats above the restaurant. But inside not all is well, even before the lobsters die. Frank Giorgio (Aiello) is in trouble: "My bank forecloses and the FDIC puts a gun to my head." His wife Maureen (Jane Curtin) has moved out. His daughter Lauren (Marisa Ryan) continues to run the bookkeeping side of the business, to know better than anyone how desperate the situation is. Giorgio's has been in the family since 1938, but opening a restaurant on top of the basic lobster business was a mistake.
Frank's son Michael (Daniel Sauli) might have been expected to take over as the third generation, but got as far away as he could (Seattle), and is back now for the holidays, with his fiancee Kerry (Heather Burns). Her family has some money, and there's the possibility that they might want to invest, and the excellent possibility that it would be a mistake for everybody. Meanwhile, Frank, facing a bank auction and forced by law to advertise it, puts a tiny ad in the pets section of the classified ads. He figures lobsters are pets. As faithful readers will know from my review of "Aquamarine," he is right. Lobsters make perfect pets. As the French poet Nerval observed, lobsters are "peaceful, serious creatures, who know the secrets of the sea, and don't bark." Amazing, isn't it, how that has come up twice in two weeks.
The movie, written and directed by Kevin Jordan, has a spontaneous, confident realism about it, and no wonder: It was inspired by his family's business, Jordan's Lobster Dock, in Brooklyn. I looked it up on the Web. It gets good reviews from CitySearch: Prompt seating, good for groups, good for kids, but "Romantic? No." And, warning: "Stay away from the corn in the platters." Overcooked. The Village Voice says the whole steamed lobsters are "excellent, served with drawn butter," but says the illusion of a Maine lobster pound "is marred somewhat by the garish franchise restaurant next door."