Published on November 27th, 2013 | by Dan Gvozden



“Stream My Reels” is a weekly column that will feature one recommended streaming title from many different sources (Netflix, OnDemand, Amazon Prime, Hulu, etc.).

Thanksgiving is about two inherently simple and endlessly complicated things: food and family.  For some the holiday carries with it great dread or eager anticipation.  We’ve all got that racist uncle, aunt who believes in mysticism, overly critical mother, or socially awkward cousin that we’d rather not talk to or, heaven forbid, eat a large dinner with.  Yet, every year most of us manage to undertake this great challenge to prepare a ton of food and quickly consume it while surrounded by the social minefield known as family.

Every Thanksgiving I make sure that I watch the one film that I think best expresses the relationships we have with food and family, Campbell Scott and Stanley Tucci’s Big Night.  I’m not sure how I first came across the film, but over time it has become a yearly tradition and a useful tool.  I cannot think of a film whose images of food are more tantalizing and hypnotizing.  Where the Food Network specializing in food porn, Big Night works in a genre that I’m calling food erotica.  There is something sensual about the meal depicted here, as if this meal might just be the greatest collection of dishes ever served.

960The film follows the story of two Italian brothers who have emigrated from Italy, specifically Abruzzo, to the New Jersey Shore.  There they have opened a restaurant named “Paradise,” that has been struggling from day one.  The older brother, Primo (Tony Shalhoub), seeks perfection and authenticity from all of his dishes.  Even the rivals admit that Primo is one of the best chefs in all of New Jersey.  Yet, he has a wicked temper that sets of his brother, Secondo (Stanley Tucci), the manager of the restaurant, who is trying to attract in new customers that aren’t necessarily looking for “real” Italian food, but something a bit more Americanized.

The film focuses on the struggle between these two brothers and their conflicting goals.  Both want success but what that means to them is completely different.  When things begin to look their grimmest, Secondo reaches out to their competitor, Pascal (Ian Holm), for a loan.  Pascal wants the brothers to work for him at his second-rate, but flashy, restaurant down the block but seems to respect their stubbornness.  He invites Louis Prima to dine at their restaurant, in hopes that it might stimulate business for them, and the brothers must rust to prepare for this “big night” of food, family, and celebration.

The story is simple, but the performances are incredible.  Tony Shalhoub has never been better, especially since he restrains his comedic sensibilities here.  This is a film that proves that small drama and well-defined characters are always more compelling than a movie full of big ideas.  When the food, family, guests, and music are just right, as we all hope they might be on Thanksgiving, an unforgettable evening is just ahead.  Big Night specializes in all of those.

“Big Night” is now available for instant streaming on Netflix Watch Instant.

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About the Author

Do you remember that dorky kid from elementary school who loved movies and comic books? Dan's him, but an adult... well in most senses of the word. All that matters is that he's an aficionado of all things pop culture and wants to share his interests with the world.

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