(director/writer: Robert Tinnell; screenwriter; based Tinnel’s graphic novel: cinematographer: Jamie Thompson; editor: Aaron J. Shelton; music: Matt Mariano; cast: Skyler Gisondo  (Tony Olivero), Madison Iseman (Beth), Josh Helman (Juke), Jessica Darrow (Sarah), Lynn Cohen (Nonnie), Joe Pantoliano (Uncle Frankie), Paul Ben-Victor (Grandpa Johnny), Andrew Schulz (Angelo), Ray Abruzzo (Uncle Carmine), Addison Timlin (Katie), Cameron Rostami (Vince), Allen Williamson (Prentice); Runtime: 85; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Jeffrey Tinnell/Robert Scott Witty/John Michaels; Shout! Studios; 2019)

“It might be the perfect film for the viewer who wants to see an undemanding traditional family film during the holiday season.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The West Virginia native Robert Tinnell (“Believe”/Airspeed”) is writer-director of this not too taxing but genial immigrant friendly seasonal rom-comedy that cherishes family values. It’s based on Tinnell’s 2005 graphic novel and Italian cookbook of the same name.

On Christmas Eve, 1983, in the Rust Belt town of Rivesville, West Virginia, on the Monongahela River, the good-natured Catholic working-class college-aged Tony Oliverio (Skyler Gisondo), who is an artist working in dad’s meat market, brings an affluent, attractive, blonde, Protestant, Ivy League girl, Beth (Madison Iseman), to his large loving family’s traditional Italian seafood feast–Feast of the Seven Fishes–a Christmas custom that dates back to the old country for some 100 years. Tony met Beth through his best friend cousin Angelo’s (Andrew Schulz) girlfriend Sarah (Jessica Darrow). But there’s an obstacle standing in the way of this possible idyllic romance, Tony’ s Great Grandma Nonnie (Lynn Cohen) doesn’t think Beth is good enough for her Tony.

To add some spice to the already spicy meal, Tony has separated from his longtime girlfriend Katie (Addison Timlin) and she is depressed that he left her.

In such a digestible feel-good movie, I was pre-occupied with the preparing of the food for the feast (the film’s best moments) and was only trying to figure out if I prefer the calamari to the smelt, therefore I have no idea if Beth and Tony will become an item or if they should return to their former mates or if they can’t be a match because of conflicting family heritages. There’s a lot on my plate to take in observing the match between a humble working-class boy and a rich socialite girl, and this film explores them in a way that will not make any waves. It might be the perfect film for the viewer who wants to see an undemanding traditional family film during the holiday season, one that’s watchable and its large dose of sentimentality is tolerable.

REVIEWED ON 11/16/2019    GRADE: B-   https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/