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Robert Abrams
Movie Reviews

Mambo Italiano

by Robert Abrams
October 9, 2003

Mambo Italiano

Review by Robert Abrams
October 9, 2003

Mambo is integral to this brilliant film. Dance motivates life: the desire to break free of confining expectations. This film is a story about the coming of age of a Italian-Canadian writer who has to confront his sexual orientation, his heritage and his difficulties finding his voice as an author. He yearns to be different. Part of this yearning stems from the influence of his aunt, who taught him to dance Mambo.

The film is well acted. Paul Sorvino gives a commanding performance. The dialogue is well crafted and humorous without sounding contrived. Several of the characters show real, and believable, growth from the film's beginning to its end.

The music is worth listening to. Much of the music makes for good dance music too. The lead song, written and performed by Adam James, is both catchy and appropriate to the nature of the film. After the showing of the movie, I had the great good fortune to hear Mr. James perform at Brunelli's (1409 York Avenue, New York, NY 10021, 212-744-8899). His music is just as genuine when heard live as it is when heard on a recording. The food at Brunelli's was great and the service was very friendly too.

The editing is precise and well paced. The film is told both as a recounting of past events, and as a depiction of current events. The storytelling flips back and forth between these modes several times during the film. This could have made the film confusing or tedious, but in part due to the skillful editing, the flow of the action was always clear.

This is a film that manages to be funny and seriously on message at the same time. Even if you are not Italian, or Canadian, or gay, or a writer, you are likely to see something relevant to your own life in this film - the dysfunction that pulls families apart and the love that brings them back together being mostly universal when told honestly. This is a film you should not miss.

I have only one criticism, and that is because I am obsessed with dance. The film could use some more dance numbers: more Mambo and more Tarantella. At one point in the film, one of the more liberated characters contrasts her life and desires versus those of her parents as the difference between Mambo and Tarantella. I would have liked to have seen this contrast shown in an extended dance performance. Perhaps as a bonus feature for the DVD? My suspicion is that, just as the characters in the film grow (the ones who are supposedly stuck with the Tarantella), the liberated characters might be able to better understand their parents by understanding their parents' dance.

Paul Sorvino as Gino Barberini and Ginette Reno as Maria Barberini.
Photo courtesy of Samuel Goldwyn Films.

For more on Mambo Italiano, go to www.mamboitalianothemovie.com.

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