When a bit of Dino wakens you up after a ton of previews followed by the MGM lion's roar, you know that's amore as you enter the Brooklyn neighborhood of sultry widow Cher and her outrageous family. She's sending her fiancee Danny Aiello off to Italy to visit his dying mama and promises to visit his estranged brother (Nicolas Cage) to get him to come to their wedding. Cage blames Aiello for the loss of his hand, distracting him while cutting bread and losing the woman he loved in the process. The embittered Cage, obviously adored by his female co-workers, perhaps isn't worthy of all that love, but it's obvious he needs a bit of mothering, being estranged from the elderly woman back in Italy. Cage manages to "snap out of it" long enough to seduce Cher ("OK. Take me to the bed. I don't care"), and then to the Opera at Lincoln Center, even causing her to darken the gray coming in. Cher plays kick the can as she returns home, only to find Aiello has returned and missing money from her job working for relatives. It's a luscious and subtle romantic comedy that, like the moon, will hit your eye like a big pizza pie.
This isn't all about Cher who was at the height of her film fame, appearing in the courtroom drama "Suspect" and dark horror comedy "The Witches of Eastwick" the very same year, winning an Oscar for this and going from camp music star to serious actress. She is the lead in an ensemble which she shares generously, with plaudits going to on-screen parents Vincent Gardenia and Olympia Dukakis. If being Archie Bunker's neighbor on "All in the Family" wasn't enough, Gardenia is a delightful curmudgeon who may love his wife, but still isn't any less of a man for having a woman on the side (Anita Gillette, ultra middle aged chic in her showy but small role), and he too gets hit in the eye as he has to decide himself what is more important: his male ego or the woman who has stood by him through thick and thin. I had already known whom Olympia Dukakis was when I saw this in the theater, having thought her very unique when she appeared on the soap opera "Search For Tomorrow". It is Dukakis who introduced me to the "Bird's Nest", a breakfast dish where the center of a huge chunk of bread is cut out so an egg can be dropped in the center and fried along with the bread. Dukakis is loving, no-nonsense, and absolutely loyal to her marriage, even if she secretly knows that her husband is stepping out on her.
Even if you are estranged from family, I doubt you will not feel the love inside this adorable family, almost operatic in its passion for each of the members. Although they fight, it is with love, and you can tell that every member of this family is on each other's side, even when they make mistakes. It holds up 30 years after its release completely. Minor characters all have moments that show their passion which doesn't diminish as they pass middle age. Even the cantankerous grandfather who has old fashioned morals that make him disgusted by what he sees (a moment between daughter-in-law Dukakis and a complete stranger that he misinterprets) speaks through his eyes without uttering a word, and various other relatives are included by having little moments where their own hopes, dreams, desires and failings are exposed. An aging Sicilian matron putting a curse on her sister as Cher watches Aiello take off for Italy gets the ball rolling. This is Sicily and the Italian mainland New York 1980's style, and anybody who has a large ethnic family, whether Italian or not, can relate to these character's personalities. It is one of the best original screenplays ever written, directed passionately by Norman Jewison, very much in the style of Woody Allen (particularly "Hannah and Her Sisters" and "Radio Days"), yet standing out as a fresh viewpoint that time hasn't yet stamped out.