Harvey Critic - 15/05


As the only person I know who was born in Brooklyn and never moved away, I have a special interest in reasons that people would leave such a heaven-sent destination. Joe Fine (Chazz Palminteri), the principal performer in Debbie Goodstein's semi-autobiographical film "Mighty Fine," checked out of New York's most exciting borough in 1974 because he moved his textile factory down south to take advantage of the economics of geographical venues. In a story that could be used as a poster child for the idea of living within your means, he may discover a lot to love about his family while at the same time treating his wife and two daughters as subservient beings.

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Reviewed for Arizona Reporter by Harvey Karten

Grade: B
Director: Debbie Goodstein
Screenwriter: Debbie Goodstein
Cast: Chazz Palminteri, Andie MacDowell, Jodelle Ferland, Rainey Qualley, Paul Ben-Victor
Screened at: Review 1, NYC, 5/9/12
Opens: May 25, 2012

"Mighty Fine" is at base a look at a man's contrasting moods, all of which are played to a T by Chazz Palminteri, the breadwinner of a Jewish family who moved with his wife and daughters to a land (New Orleans) in which Jews were often not accepted. Joe Fine smothered his family with riches using money he did not possess while at the same time making clear that he was the sole decision-maker, a fellow who bought a huge house without so much as a consult with his wife Stella (Andie MacDowell). Never mind that he names his boat after Stella, buys her a large diamond ring, and showers her with affection: his control-freak attitudes regularly annoy his older daughter Maddie (Rainey Qualley-who is Andie MacDowell's real-life daughter), a high-school senior ahead of her time with her confident, independent views who becomes quickly accepted by her peers, particularly one Earl (Richard Kohnke) who becomes her boyfriend.

What becomes painfully though belatedly aware to Joe is that financially, he is in trouble, as his textile plant, called Mighty Fine, is dying, a victim of the cheaper fabrics available overseas. Ignoring the advice of his long-term consultant Lenny (Arthur J. Nascarella), Joe arranges to borrow a large sum of money from The Mob, introduced to a loan shark by his pal Bobby (Paul Ben-Victor).

The tale is told from the point of view of Joe's younger girl Natalie (Jodelle Ferland), who aspires to be a famous writer modeled after Anne Frank and who spends much of her time writing poetry and showing increasing concern for her dad's blow-ups to such an extent that she submits a poem about her father to a contest sponsored by Campbell's soup. Among the flaws of the movie are Stella's overly heavy East European accent, explained by her location during World War II where she is hidden from the Nazis by a Christian family. Another is the use of terms that were not used in the Seventies, such as A-hole (which Joe is called during one of his bouts of extreme anger). Joe himself uses the expression "come-on" with the frequency that CNN journalists distract the audience with "you-know." Further, the placement of Joe in a mental institution is hardly justified. Rainey Qualley's age is not available on the IMDB but she appears more like a twenty-five year old than a high-school senior.

All in all, "Mighty Fine" is of interest largely from Chazz Palminteri's over-the-top performance, his frequent shifts from ebullience to rage wholly credible.

Rated R. 80 minutes. © 2011 by Harvey Karten Member: NY Film Critics Online.

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