The Formulaic 'About My Father' Has Just Enough Heart Directed by Laura Terruso
Starring Sebastian Maniscalco, Robert De Niro, Leslie Bibb, Anders Holm, David Rasche, Brett Dier, Kim Cattrall
Published May 25, 2023Reminiscent of the quaint and sweet family comedy of another era, About My Father brings the warmth of yesteryear into the present. Directed by Laura Terruso, About My Father is a simple, no-fuss rom-com about fatherhood and the joys of being Italian.
Sebastian Maniscalco, who also co-wrote the film, stars as Sebastian, a first-generation Italian-American living in Chicago with his girlfriend Ellie Collins (Leslie Bibb), an artist with a WASP pedigree. Sebastian, raised by proud Sicilian immigrants, finds himself at odds with Ellie's family and way of life. And while he eventually finds some joy in things like afternoon naps and tennis lessons, Sebastian is still wary of introducing his father Salvo (Robert De Niro) to Ellie's parents and brothers.
When Sebastian approaches Salvo to obtain a family wedding ring in the hopes of using it to propose to Ellie, Salvo insists on meeting Ellie's family before giving him the treasured heirloom. Coincidentally, with the 4th of July weekend approaching, Ellie has invited the two to her country club to celebrate. Appreciating that he won't get the ring otherwise, Sebastian relents and the three head off to the Collins estate.
Over the course of one weekend, Salvo's no nonsense and economic immigrant mentality clashes with the well to do Collins. Salvo assures Sebastian what every overbearing parent has convinced themselves of: he's doing this for his son's own good. And truly, at the heart of the film is a father's unconditional love for his son and his willingness to do whatever it takes to make him happy.
A successful stand-up comedian, Maniscalco surprisingly writes himself as the straight man in About My Father, with De Niro taking on more of the comedic weight as the proverbial fish out of water. Over the years De Niro has played the role of the steely on the outside, squishy on the inside curmudgeon with varying degrees of success. In About My Father, the legendary actor takes up the mantle with a far more comfortable grasp than in previous outings with his comedic notes more subtle and less broad.
The chemistry between Maniscalco and De Niro is formidable. They play off each other well throughout the film whether it's moments of conflict, humour or heartfelt. The same can be said about the Collins family with David Rasche and Kim Cattrall leading the family with comedic precision and ease.
About My Father borrows many elements from films like Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?, My Big Fat Greek Wedding and even Meet the Parents without paving its own path, but it has enough heart that its formulaic nature is just about forgivable. This isn't a film that audiences will be raving about at the end of the year (or even by summer's end); however, it works as a feel good film on those lazy summer afternoons — and sometimes that's all we need in a movie. Salute. (Lionsgate)