I just rewatched Big Night and it is as wonderful and heartbreaking and inspiring as ever. There is so much to love in this film, from the fabulous soundtrack of songs by Louis Prima, Rosemary Clooney and others, to the great ensemble cast of Stanley Tucci, Tony Shalhoub, Minnie Driver, Ian Hom, Isabella Rosselini, Allison Janney and Campbell Scott—to the amazing food, food, food. I still have yet to attempt the signature dish timpano, but this movie makes me want to try.
The movie was written by Tucci with Joseph Tropiano and directed by Tucci and co-star Campbell Scott. Like the infamous timpano, the film is a labor of love in how it portrays the difficulty two Italian immigrant brothers find in adapting to their new country, while at the same time wanting to hold onto and share the culture of Italy and their family with their new friends. Older brother and chef Primo, played by Shalhoub, is in despair that diners at the brothers’ restaurant want Italian-American fare—a side of spaghetti with everything. Rival restaurant owner Ian Holm is more than willing to give the people what they want. Restaurant manager Tucci just wants to succeed in his new country and provide a showcase for his talented brother.
The movie builds and builds its momentum, with the viewer and every character in the movie wanting the brothers to succeed on their big night—a chance to cook a feast for popular Italian-American bandleader Louis Prima and his band. Images like the burning wrappers of the amaretti give the viewer clues along the way, but the final scene, my favorite, says so much without the actors saying a single word. Food, love, life is what matters to these brothers—as Shaloub’s character Primo says, “To eat good food is to be close to God.”