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Big Night Movie Review

tucci primo shalhoub secondo

This excellent film is to struggling owners of small Italian restaurants what Strictly Ballroom is to Open Amateurs dancing on Federation steps at the Pan Pacific Grand Prix championships. Big Night takes a look at Primo and Secondo Pilaggi, two Italian brothers living and working in 1950s New Jersey: Primo (Tony Shalhoub), a genius chef who can't promote, and Secondo (Stanley Tucci), a genius promoter who can't begin to approach his brother's skill in the kitchen. Each needs the other and each resents the other. They continue to do what they do best, and decide to splurge on a Big Night in honor of Louis Prima (1911–78). Primo cooks the meal of a lifetime, and Secondo hustles the potential backers of a lifetime. The cards in the brothers’ pricey gamble are stacked against them, and Secondo knows it. Ian Holm gives another vintage performance as a sleazy business competitor, and Campbell Scott (who also co-directed), Isabella Rossellini, and Minnie Driver are also seen to good advantage. This is the perfect dinner and a video movie, although you're going to wish you could eat some of Primo's creations. The last sequence in the film is deservedly memorable because it is simultaneously complex and simple (like Primo's masterpieces) and, even more extraordinary, it was shot all in one take. Big Night is a triumph for writer/director Tucci, who clearly learned a great deal about the art of filmmaking during the seven years he played character parts in the Hollywood fluff machine.

1995 (R) 109m/C Tony Shalhoub, Stanley Tucci, Ian Holm, Minnie Driver, Campbell Scott, Isabella Rossellini, Mark Anthony, Allison Janney; D: Stanley Tucci, Campbell Scott; W: Stanley Tucci, Joseph Tropiano; C: Ken Kelsch. National Society of Film Critics Awards ‘96: Best Supporting Actor (Shalhoub); Sundance Film Festival ‘96: Best Screenplay; Nominations: Independent Spirit Awards ‘97: Best First Feature, Best First Feature (Shalhoub, Tucci). VHS, LV, Closed Caption, DVD

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