In films, Italian families are generally stereotyped as big, loud, invasive, religious, dramatic, and incredibly close. Mambo Italiano is absolutely no exception to that rule. In this comedy-drama about the ultimate in family culture clash, the son of Italian immigrants deals with the ultimate in culture class when he falls in love, and tries his best to balance being a good Italian son, and being in a relationship with another man.
Angelo Barberini’s (Luke Kirby) family members are the epitome of discontent. His parents, Maria and Gino (Ginette Reno and Paul Sorvino) accidentally immigrated to Canada when they meant to come to the United States, and still haven’t gotten over it 30+ years after the fact. His father hates his job, his mother hates the fact that neither of her two children is married, and his sister, Anna (Claudia Ferri), is just generally dissatisfied with life, as well has highly neurotic. Angelo doesn’t want to add to their stress, but when his childhood best friend, Nino Paventi (Peter Miller), re-enters his life, Angelo refuses to let him get away this time.
But Nino isn’t just another in-the-closet gay Italian man, he’s a respected police officer and (unlike Angelo), popular. Women love Nino and men want to be him. Nino’s social standing, as well as the fear of what his widowed mother, Lina (Mary Walsh), will think puts an enormous strain on he and Angelo’s budding romance, and although Nino’s the one with a gun, Angelo’s the only one prepared to be brave.
Mambo Italiano feels more like a brief sitcom than a movie, which is actually a large part of its charm. The audience is immediately pulled into the lives of these families and becomes deeply emotionally invested in our protagonist, as well as everyone else, living their truth. Quirky, hilarious, unexpectedly poignant, touching, and deeply entertaining, this comedy-drama makes you feel like a part of the family. Covering both the pressures of being gay, and of living up to the expectations of immigrant parents, Mambo Italiano is unremarkably remarkable.
I give this one 4 stars.