Mighty Fine: Film Review

Mighty Fine Film Still Art Family Car - H 2012

Mighty Fine Film Still Art Family Car - H 2012

Even a clever title can’t galvanize this lightweight family drama.

Chazz Palminteri and Andie MacDowell star as a couple with big dreams who move their family from Brooklyn to New Orleans.

A rather clichéd coming-of-ager, writer-director Debbie Goodstein’s “semi-autobiographical” feature directorial debut Mighty Fine has heart to spare, but little new to say. Even with a planned counter-programming strategy, it stands a slim chance of carving out much of a niche from an anticipated Memorial Day weekend limited release.

PHOTOS: The Scene at Santa Barbara International Film Festival

Set in the 70s, Mighty Fine follows Joe Fine (Chazz Palminteri), a Brooklyn garment manufacturer, as he moves his family to New Orleans, closer to the factory that produces his company’s clothing line. His wife Stella (Andie MacDowell), a Holocaust survivor, and younger teenage daughter Natalie (Jodelle Ferland) are excited about the change of scene, but high-school senior Maddie (Rainey Qualley) couldn’t be more aghast at the prospect of starting over with a new social clique in her final year.

Joe’s not just a big dreamer, he’s a big spender too, installing his family in a plantation-style mini-mansion and showering them with gifts. Behind the scenes though, Joe’s business is getting battered as jobs move out of town and overseas. His lavish gestures are little help to Natalie, struggling in school as she tries to find her voice as a young writer, and only further infuriate rebellious Maddie, determined to date the most inappropriate boyfriend possible to challenge her father’s authority.

As his business begins imploding and his family increasingly ignores his misdirected but seemingly well-intentioned guidance, Joe responds the only way he knows – with anger and blame. A rager of the first order, Fine’s pitifully poor impulse control and skewed judgment are almost comically predictable. Working through a checklist of middle-aged male foibles, Goodstein systematically escalates the scope of Fine’s alarming miscalculations, as he alienates his family and pushes his company to the brink.

VIDEO: Disney Party: 'Jane by Design' featuring Andie MacDowell

While her depiction of the domestic sphere feels authentic, if a bit dramatic, Goodstein’s inability to convincingly articulate events in Fine’s business life is distractingly inconsistent. Storylines get dropped or fail to connect and minor characters drift in and out of the narrative, slim to begin with at only 80 minutes. An unremarkable visual style generates little additional interest.

In mostly workmanlike mode, Palminteri imbues Joe Fine with loads of emotion but scant characterization. MacDowell serves little more than a reactive role, playing the victim rather too melodramatically. Making her feature debut, Qualley (McDowell’s daughter and Miss Golden Globe 2012) mildly impresses as the recalcitrant older daughter, but the far more experienced Ferland is too under-powered in the protagonist’s role to effectively drive the plot.

Venue: Santa Barbara International Film Festival (Adopt Films)
Cast: Chazz Palminteri, Andie MacDowell, Rainey Qualley, Jodelle Ferland
Director-screenwriter: Debbie Goodstein
Producers: Ajae Clearway, Kathryn Wallack, Debbie Goodstein
Executive producers: Chazz Palminteri, Mark Manuel
Director of photography: Bobby Bukowski
Production designer: Kelly McGehee
Music: Max Avery Lichtenstein
Costume designer: Kari Perkins
Editor: Suzy Elmiger
No rating, 80 minutes