Projections - Movie Reviews

Two Family House Two Family House

Raymond DeFelitta's evocative story of ambition, hard work and ethnic conflict set in Staten Island in the mid 1950's is compassionate and feeling.  A recipient of this year's Sundance Audience Award, Two Family House poignantly earns its praise from the enriching experiences that the writer/director draws from his own Uncle Buddy who purchased a two family house to provide for his wife and his aspirations to be a singer.

Played with depth by the underrated Michael Rispoli (The Sopranos), Buddy Visalo is a likable, honest, working class Italian American positioned in Staten Island.  Yet, he has been held back by his controlling wife Estelle (Katherine Narducci, also of The Sopranos) from the time he was in the army and prodded by Arthur Godfrey to be a crooner.

Consequently, the unrelenting Buddy tries to make things better career wise with endeavors that range from a limo service to a pizzeria.  The frustrated dreamer endures a decade with Estelle in her parents home in a gossipy Italian neighborhood.  DeFelitta knows how these denizens speak and creates credible people who act off of stereotypes and slurs.

In a final stab to be his own boss, Buddy finances a two family home in a poor Irish area, much to the chagrin of his Italian family and friends.  The eroding enclave can be converted to a downstairs nightclub while the upstairs is a home for Estelle and him.

Soon, Two Family House gets more involving as the noisy Irish drunk, O'Leary (Kevin Conway) wants to stay upstairs with his wife Mary (Trainspotting's Kelly MacDonald) and the miscegenation resulting from her pregnancy on the day of their eviction changes the lives of Buddy and the ostracized Mary.

Rispoli, who co-stared in Spike Lee's Summer of Sam, finds a humanity in the caring, enthusiastic man who finds solace in the abandoned woman with a newborn, and both show a renewed sense of self confidence and trust from their positive connection, a first for them as adults.

Director DeFelitta shows a cogent artistic hand along with an emotional energy as Buddy's road in the moving Two Family House is often rocky with Rispoli understanding the abrasive boundaries he and the affecting MacDonald have to overcome.

Two Family House

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