Written By Darren
Rating 4 out of 5
Mafia Mamma is a true hit thanks to the ever brilliant and funny Toni Collette delivering a character for the history books as the new don of an Italian crime family, bringing joy and laughter to the gangster genre with this fish out of water story.
As an idea, the premise of Mafia Mamma is not a bad idea. It’s a smart, comedic take on beloved classics such as The Godfather, providing a comedic fish out of water approach to the gangster genre. But, such a concept either fails or soars due to the actress cast in the lead role. And much to this film’s success, the always magnificent Toni Collette is more than capable of crafting a memorable and hilarious performance to bring this captivating lead character to life and carries the entire film on her shoulders.
Kristin is at a crossroads in her life. Her son has just gone off to college, and she has caught her husband cheating on her. So when she receives a phone call from Italy telling her that her grandfather has passed and that it was his wish for her to come to Italy for his funeral, Kristin jumps at the opportunity. But once in Italy, Kristin finds out that her grandfather was the head of a mafia empire which she has inherited from him. Completely out of her league, but with the help of her grandfather’s concierge Bianca, Kristin handles things her way to hilarious yet remarkable results that surprise not only her criminal organization, but all of her family’s enemies.
The film’s story is a lot of fun, paying homage to the greatest gangster films with lots of nods to some of their most iconic moments and characters (yes, there are cannolis!) There are no true surprises hidden up the screenplay’s sleeve, following the beats of the gangster genre closely, but it does so with a fun attitude. Infused throughout the script is a journey of self-discovery as Kristin builds something for herself, finding what truly makes her happy after always acting in the best interests of her husband and son for the eighteen years. It is a fun feminist twist to the genre, providing a familiar template to audiences in a genre that you do not expect to find it in, creating a truly enjoyable and refreshing film. Like any good gangster film, there is violence and betrayal, but despite the gore and film’s R rating that does not sugar coat the darkness of the world of the mafia, the screenplay presents these moments through a comedic lens that keeps the film light and entertaining.
Within minutes of the film starting, there is no denying that this would be a rather flat comedy without the truly brilliant performance of Toni Collette! Colette has always been a wonderful character actress, capturing a wide range of personalities with her energy and facial expressions, which once again she does with such talent in the role of Kristin. Capturing the doting housewife in Kristin looking to find her “eat, pray, love”, Collette brings a down to earth and sweet nature to Kristin with her compassion for others, and quirky housewife attitudes such as baking muffins for a meeting with her rivals.
Though, it is the comedic aspects that Collette brings to the role that makes this film a hilarious watch from start to finish. Colette captures the fish out of water experience of Kristin with a simplicity built around blind faith, that makes her encounters with rival mafia members hilarious when she unknowingly and unintentionally knocks them off one by one, while slowly taking her character on a character arc adjacent to that of Michael Corleone in The Godfather. The final scene of the movie is a chilling homage to the iconic final scene of The Godfather, and while Collette captures that darkness, she balances it out with that infectious energy that makes Kristin such a loveable character. It’s a comedic tour de force performance from Collette that ranks among one of her finest performances, right up there with Knives Out, with the limoncello scene being her standout comedic moment.
Collette is the true star of the film, and not even the supporting cast can steal the spotlight from her, but that does not mean that the supporting cast is bad. It’s actually a solid supporting cast, but their purpose is to support Collette’s character at all times and not have their standout moments. Monica Bellucci is stunning as Bianca, bringing a great femme fatale vibe to the film and having great on screen moments with Collette. Giulio Corso is a fun love interest for Collette as Lorenzo, capturing that dreamy Italian man that women dream of while having a delightful romantic chemistry with Collette. And Francesco Mastroianni and Alfonso Perugini are pitch perfect as Kristin’s two bodyguards Aldo and Dante, creating an endearing friendship with Collette on screen as these two deadly men begin to see something special in their new boss.
To round out the film is the beautiful backdrop of Rome, bringing an authenticity to the setting of the film that cannot be recreated by soundstage sets. Much like Kristin, the audience is swept away with the stunning sights of Italy, when combined with a musical score by Alex Heffes, evokes the atmosphere of some of the most infamous mafia films to ever have graced the silver screen. Everything comes together under the direction of Catherine Hardwicke, who has always championed female led stories, ensuring that the mafia elements of the story never eclipse Kristin’s story of self-discovery and reinvention, two universal themes that can connect with any viewer.
While audiences may question how good Mafia Mamma can be, it is a true crowd pleaser that is guaranteed to have audiences erupting in laughter in darkened movie theaters this weekend if they surrender themselves to the concept of the film. The story delivers an entertaining fish out of water tale with a fun feminist twist on the gangster genre, it is the sensational performance of Toni Collette as American housewife turned mafia don that makes Mafia Mamma a truly enjoyable and hilarious experience.