Bittersweet Family Drama Touches Many On Its Message

Jack Lyons Theatre & Film Critic

Jack Lyons Theatre & Film Critic

The hope of movie producers and directors is that their film will touch and resonate with as many viewers as possible.  That’s not always easy to accomplish for a variety of reasons.  The story and/or the subject matter may not lend itself to a wide audience, or   the film may be intentionally targeted to a niche audience.

In the case of the 2012 film “Mighty Fine”, written and directed by Debbie Goodstein Rosenfeld, starring Academy Award-nominated actor Chazz Palminteri, Andie McDowell of “Groundhog Day”; beautiful, new-comer Rainey Qualley, and Jodelle Ferland.  It’s the kind of story that resonates with families everywhere.

MV5BNjA2OTg2MjEwNF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMjYwNDY1Nw@@._V1_SX214_The story revolves around the Jewish family, the Fine’s, who have just moved from Brooklyn to New Orleans in the 1970’s.  The screenplay is based, in part, on Goodstein-Rosenfeld’s own experience of dealing with the often bizarre and confusing behavior of “rage” by a parent.  In this case it’s the father Joe Fine powerfully played by Palminteri that has our focus.  We’re not dealing with abuse here. On the contrary, we’re observing a loving, but over-controlling and protective father of two daughters and a compliant wife, who has difficultly in dealing with his personal rage when things don’t go his way.  To him, life is a struggle and to succeed one needs to be tough, and never accept No for an answer. Joe, however, is oblivious to the psychological collateral damage his behavior produces at home and in the community.

Joe’s holocaust survivor wife Stella, played by Andie MacDowell (with a convincing European accent), is still intimidated by Joe’s uncontrollable temper even after many years of marriage.  Instead of helping him to seek medical help, Stella is filled with trepidation, becoming his “behavior enabler”.  His youngest daughter, the shy and introverted Natalie, winningly played by Jordelle Ferland also fears her father’s temper and behavior.  The oldest daughter Maddie, the drop-dead gorgeous and confident 16-year old played by Rainey Qualley (the real-life twenty-three year-old daughter of MacDowell), is the only one with enough gumption to stand up to her father.  It’s a convincing and auspicious film debut for the beautiful Qualley, who is an actor the camera obviously adores.

There are the usual series of scenes involving teenage pool parties gone wild, schoolroom incidents due to new students (the Fine girls) trying to fit into their new environment, adding up to a cultural disconnect for all concerned.  The South in the 1970’s was no stranger to anti-Semitism, intolerance, and anger, however the film produces both laughs and many poignant moments.  Anyone who has ever had to pull up stakes and move to a different state will certainly relate to the film, especially if they had school age children.

Set in New Orleans the movie is beautifully photographed, acting as sort of a travel brochure for the pleasures, grace, and lifestyle of the South in the bargain.  Personal stories are always best when they come from the heart.  “Mighty Fine” is a bittersweet movie from a filmmaker with talent and a sense of family and the issues affecting families everywhere.

Lionsgate Entertainment is releasing the family drama, which will be available through Netflix later this year.

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