Two Family House

Directed by Raymond De Felitta
Starring: Michael Rispoli, Kelly Macdonald, Kathrine Narducci, Kevin Conway, Matt Servitto, Vincent Pastore, and narrated by Frank Whaley.
MPAA Rating: R for language and brief sexuality.

Review by Matt Heffernan <matt@filmhead.com>
January 12, 2001

OK, so this review is a little late. Few people are going to be able to see Two Family House at theatres in the future. I put off seeing it myself, even though I was looking forward to it. After seeing it, I knew that I wanted to talk about the film, regardless of whether anybody still cared.

Set on Staten Island in 1956, the film stars several castmembers of "The Sopranos". Michael Rispoli (who played Jackie Aprile on the HBO series) plays Buddy Visalo, an aspiring singer who has tried several business ventures over the years. His latest idea to showcase his talent is to buy a two family house, move into the upstairs flat, and build a bar on the ground floor -- Buddy's Tavern. His wife, Estelle (Kathrine Narducci, who plays Charmaine Bucco on the series), reluctantly goes along with the plan.

The first thing Buddy needs to do is evict the Irish couple who rented the upstairs flat from the previous owner. The woman, Mary (Kelly Macdonald) is pregnant, and suffers abuse from her drunken husband, Jim (Kevin Conway). On the day Buddy tries to force them out, Mary has her baby, which turns out to be black. Jim leaves her, but Buddy is surprisingly sympathetic.

From there, the relationship between Buddy and Mary develops despite all the taboos involved. Within this unlikely situation, writer/director Raymond De Felitta finds a beautiful story of love and hope. Characters who at first appear to be clichés turn out to be very deeply explored beyond their stereotypes.

Rispoli in particular transcends his position as a character actor to really carry this film, as his colleague James Gandolfini has done with "The Sopranos". Even "Big Pussy" himself, Vincent Pastore, is on hand as the local bartender. It's a credit to the show (not to mention this film) that the actors who play marginal characters can star in a film that far exceeds many others that use this much television talent.

Two Family House is the kind of film that most people would like, if only they would go out of their way to see it. A few familiar faces from TV isn't enough to get people out of the multiplexes that would never even consider showing such a film. The best it can hope for is a good following on video, where smaller films can succeed. I'm afraid that's where most people will see it, but like I said, it was worth reviewing before it left theatres. People should know it exists.


For more information, go to the Internet Movie Database:
Two Family House (2000)

Here's some merchandise for sale at Amazon.com
Two Family House (2000) -- VHS
Two Family House (2000) -- DVD
Two Family House: Soundtrack -- Compact Disc


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Review © 2001 Matt Heffernan