Tag Archives: Catherine Hardwicke

He Is Heavy, He’s My Grandpa

Prisoner’s Daughter  

by Christie Robb

In Catherine Hardwicke’s newest film, the title character, Maxine (Kate Beckinsale), is struggling. She’s got two jobs, but still can’t afford the epilepsy medicine her son Ezra (Christopher Convery) needs. The kid’s dad is no help. He’s a drug-addicted man-child squatting in what looks like an abandoned factory, showing up only to cause trouble and get Maxine fired by one of her managers.

So, when her prisoner father, Max (Brian Cox), is diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer and offered compassionate release and house arrest for his last four months if his estranged daughter is up for it, Maxine agrees – but only if he pays rent promptly, stays out of the way, and keeps his exact relationship to her quiet around her kid. Ezra thinks his grandfather died before he was born, and Maxine doesn’t want her ruse upended.

Although Max, a former boxer turned enforcer/probable hit man, was a shit dad whose presence and absence from Maxine’s life during her childhood left her with many emotional scars, we are given to understand that he’s changed in the last 12 years, gotten sober, and been an asset to those prisoners trying to do the same. And, now that he’s back in his daughter’s life, he’s out to make some serious amends.

Much of the film is a thinly-written fairytale—the rekindling of a healthy relationship within an estranged family with minimal effort and no therapy required. Apologies are freely offered. Money is exchanged without strings. But strings are pulled to put Maxine’s career back on track. Whimsical adventures are had. And grandpa bonds with grandson, passing down valuable life lessons to help him navigate tough stuff that mom just doesn’t understand.

See, Ezra is being bullied at school. So, Max, the former boxer, is more than ready to step up and teach him to fight. The last act is interesting. but sometimes as heavy-handed as Max’s fists. And it makes you wonder what kind of legacy Max has passed on to the next generation and whether it’s really that easy to change oneself, much less stop the cycle of generational trauma.

Donna Corleone

Mafia Mamma

by George Wolf

So a suburban L.A. mom named Kristin (Toni Collette) is handpicked to be the new boss of a mafia family in Italy? Man, that’s crazy. How’d that happen?

“They made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.”

It’s actually surprising Kristin doesn’t say that in Mafia Mamma, a film that’s built on exactly that same type of obvious, forced humor.

Kristin has barely had to time to cry about her son leaving for college when she catches her husband Paul (Tim Daisch) in the act with a younger woman. Then, while her head is spinning about the future of her marriage, Kirstin hears from the mysterious Bianca (Monica Belluci).

Turns out Kristin’s estranged grandfather was head of the Balbano crime family, and was just assassinated by the rival Romano clan. But Kristin (maiden name: Balbano) is only told grandpa is dead, and she must come to Italy to settle his affairs.

As Jenny (Sophia Nomvete), the oversexed best friend (c’mon, you knew there’d be an oversexed best friend) implores Kristin to have an “Eat, pray, f@#k” vacation, she’s quickly juggling suave suitors and surprising truths.

Bianca was General for Don Guiseppe Balbano (Alessandro Bressanello), and she’s committed to carrying out the Don’s last order: that Kristin take over the family.

Fish-out-of-water hijinx ensue, with director Catherine Hardwicke weakly juggling the mob tropes amid some well-intentioned but heavy handed reminders about how workplace culture disrespects aging women.

Collette is likable as always, and Belucci is smoldering as always, but the script they’re given can’t rise above the TV backgrounds of the writing team. Convoluted, nonsensical and never more than mildly amusing, Mafia Mamma is about as lively as Luca Brasi.