Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Mighty Fine Manic Depressive
to New Orleans? Well, Laissez le bon temps rouler, unless you happen to be an
awkward Jewish high school student from Brooklyn. In that case, it might be somewhat daunting. The Fine sisters find themselves in such a
situation, but they will experience far more angst rooted their father’s
erratic anger in Debbie Goodstein-Rosenfeld’s partly biographical Mighty Fine (trailer here), which opens this
Friday in New York.
Fine was a swaggering young enlisted man in WWII when he met Stella, a
beautiful Jewish teenager whom a neighbor literally hid in a hole in his
property during the war. Their
attraction was immediate and her devotion would be almost total. In fact, her reluctance to stand up to Fine’s
increasingly frequent explosions of anger causes resentment among her
is the older attractive one, who can adapt to any new environment fairly easily
through her looks and charm. Natalie is
the younger, bookish one, who narrates the film looking back from an adult
vantage point. The fact that Janeane
Garofalo supplies these voiceovers does not exactly do the character or actor
Jodelle Ferland any favors, subconsciously making most of the audience less inclined
to be sympathetic.
first, the move south appears to be a good thing, but Fine’s textile business
(the Mighty Fine label) is on life support.
When the federal tax credit he was banking on is tabled, the writing is
on the wall. Not surprisingly, this
pushes Fine to his breaking point.
Though not yet physically abusive outright, the sisters begin to worry Fine
might finally hurt one of them, or himself.
and produced in the spirit of forgiveness, the film never condemns Fine for his
weaknesses, nor does it ever shy away from the uncomfortable reality of his tempestuous
behavior. It is an honest and sensitive
film, which is commendable, but not necessarily sufficient.
viewers feel for the Fines, all of them, their story falls into a rather
predictable pattern—their father loses his cool, tries to make it up to the
family with some form of extravagance, only to get worked up again. Maybe it is rather true to life, but as
cinema it gets laborious. A fair number
of motley subplots are also left dangling, such as the underworld figures Fine
approaches to set an insurance fire at his factory. Evidently, should you ever get mixed up with
gangsters, if you just ignore them they will go away. For some this will be a minor quibble, but it
seems utterly bizarre Goodstein-Rosenfeld would set Mighty in New Orleans, but not employ any of the local music. That is a real shame, because the sounds are
so great and the local musicians could definitely use a gig.
of Mighty’s faults, it boasts some of
executive producer Palminteri’s best work.
Completely eschewing shtick and sentimentally, it is a gutty yet
uncommonly human performance. In
contrast, co-executive producer Andie MacDowell is more than a bit mannered as
the ever loyal Stella. Still, her real
life daughter Rainey Qualley is a forceful, dynamic presence as Maddie. Though somewhat mousy by design, Ferland’s
Natalie is quite engaging, as well.
Mighty Fine could not
possibly be more earnest. Its design
team also has a good eye for period details and overall ambiance. Still, a bit of tension breaking levity and
some funky NOLA tunes would not have undermined the central drama. Respectable but wearying, Mighty Fine opens this Friday (5/25) in
New York at the AMC Empire and AMC Village.
Labels: Coming of age films, Mental illness in film