‘Mighty Fine’ Movie Review
Movies based on personal memoirs are nothing new. Depending on the story and the cast and the direction, they can either be wonderful or terrible. Mighty Fine falls somewhere in between with a lackluster script, yet several great performances.
Told from the point of view of Natalie Fine (Jodelle Ferland), the movie tells the story of the Fine family whose patriarch, Joe (Chazz Palminteri), a verbally abusive businessman with mob ties, moves them from Jersey to New Orleans in the mid-1970’s, a culture shock for Natalie, but more so for her older sister, Maddie (Rainey Qualley).
When Joe’s business starts to go sour, his mood swings become dangerous, and he takes out most of his rage on Maddie who refuses to back down from him, unlike their mother Stella (Andie MacDowell–Qualley’s real life mother), a Holocaust survivor who can’t seem to face the fact that her husband is a bully.
I think I would have liked the movie a little more if the emotional moments hadn’t felt so heavy-handed, in particular the ones involving Qualley. While she is gorgeous, she was completely out-shined by Jodelle Ferland, who brought both innocence and youthful wisdom to her role.
Although his character is just about entirely unlikeable, Chazz Palminteri did an amazing job bringing Joe Fine to life, and he managed to play him well despite a script that couldn’t seem to decide if he was a villain or a victim. That might be the problem with having a writer who is too close to the subject material. The result is an anti-climax that leaves the audience feeling almost nothing.
I was also disappointed with the decision to show almost none of the Louisiana bayou, even after Joe purchases a boat, as well as the choice to portray all of the Southern characters as racist red-necks. There could have been a lot of nuance, but most of the opportunities for depth were wasted, and since the movie clocks in at less than an hour and a half, it wasn’t as if they didn’t have the time.
All in all, the script could have used one final overhaul before production began. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that watching the film is a waste of time, but neither should one expect too much from it.
“Mighty Fine” opens to theaters in Los Angeles and New York today, May 25th.