(director/writer: Ray Romano; screenwriter: Mark Stegemann; cinematographer: Naceo Bishop; editor: Robert Nassau; music: Mark Orton; cast: Ray Romano (Leo Russo), Tony LoBianco (Dominic ‘Pop’ Russo, dad), Laurie Metcalf (Angela Russo, mom), Sebastian Maniscalco (Frank Russo), Jennifer Esposito (Pamela Carmelo), Jacob Ward (Matthew ‘Sticks’ Russo), Sadie Stanley (Dani Brooks), June Gable (Mama Russo); Runtime: 107; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Ray Romano, Ron Yerxa, Mark Stegemann, Albert Berger; Lionsgate Films/Roadside Attractions; 2022)

“It’s a familiar but beautiful NYC type of story set in an Italian-American milieu.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Ray Romano is a former standup comedian and TV director of the hit sitcom “Everybody Loves Raymond,” that ran for 9 years. He’s a first time feature film director and is co-writer with Mark Stegemann of this warm drama on the struggles of a close-knit Italian-American family, residing in NYC’s outer-borough of Queens. Romano also is the star and producer.

Leo Russo (Ray Romano) is resigned to being a failure in life and being overshadowed by his more lively brother Frank (Sebastian Maniscalco). Leo’s an affable fuck-up working alongside Frank in his dad’s (Tony LoBianco) family-run construction business. He’s married to his tough-minded and sharp-tongued cancer recovering wife Angie (Laurie Metcalf). They have a son in high school nicknamed “Sticks’ (Jacob Ward), who is hoping he gets a college basketball scholarship. The shy kid has taken a fancy to the bubbly and opinionated Dani Brooks (Sadie Stanley), who gets an invite to dine with Sticks’s working-class family.

Many troubling incidents occur for the cartoonish characters that might be just goofy but are somewhat funny.

The main plot has Leo resigned to living vicariously through his star basketball player son. When Dani acts to derail the dreams her boyfriend’s dad has for his son, the dad will react to counter her moves.

In its more poignant moments, the film asks if it’s OK for an interfering failed father to live vicariously through his son and try to make sure he gets what he couldn’t.

It’s a familiar but beautiful NYC type of story set in an Italian-American milieu.

It played at the Tribeca Film Festival.
REVIEWED ON 12/26/2023  GRADE: B