It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
As the movie opens, Buddy Visalo (Michael Rispoli) is in the Navy and sings in a talent show. He's an Italian-American crooner, and Arthur Godfrey hears him an offers him an audition. But his fiancee, Estelle, won't let him go. She finds the idea "embarrassing," she says. Eventually Godfrey hires Julius LaRosa as his crooner, and it eats away inside Buddy that the job might have been his.
Estelle is played by Katherine Narducci, who, like Rispoli, is familiar from "The Sopranos." Estelle is the kind of woman who grows taller by standing on the back of her husband's dreams. Buddy wants to open his own bar. "Serving drinks to a lot of bums?" Estelle sneers. "You want to turn me into a barmaid?" She wants them to stay back "where we belong, not making fools of ourselves, not having everybody laugh behind our backs." She would gladly send Buddy out into the world to a soul-crushing job for the rest of his life rather than let him take a chance.
Now this is where the story gets interesting, and begins to accumulate the elements of family legend. Buddy buys a two-family house, planning to turn the downstairs into Buddy's Bar and rent the upstairs for income. He discovers he already has upstairs tenants: an Irish-American boozer named Jim O'Neary (Kevin Conway) and his considerably younger wife, named Mary (Kelly MacDonald), who is pregnant. There is an added detail: Her baby will be half black. Who the father is, we are not sure. Why the father is not Jim, we can figure out just by looking at him: He is one of those drunks who give alcoholics a bad name.
Now all the pieces are in place for a story that must have been heard many times in many versions by Raymond De Felitta, Buddy's nephew, who wrote and directed this film. To some members of the family, Buddy was no doubt a lunatic loser. To others, who perhaps kept their opinions to themselves at family gatherings, he was a nice guy who was trying to do the right thing.
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