Monday, May 7, 2012

Mighty Fine: a movie about a damaged family

I was thrilled to learn I was chosen as one of the bloggers to get an advance online preview of the new movie coming out on May 25, "Mighty Fine." It stars Andie McDowell and Chaz Palminteri, in addition to two young talented actors (one of whom is McDowell's daughter, Rainey).

"Mighty Fine" takes place in the 1970s. It's about a Jewish family ruled by a man from New York (Joe Fine, played by Palminteri), who rescued Stella, a Polish woman (McDowell), at the end of the war and married her. They have two teenage daughters (Maddie and Natalie), and he moves his family from Brooklyn down south to Louisiana. He is one of those men who likes to be in charge and likes to be able to take care of his family as a provider. However, he rules the family with an iron hand. When a number of business deals go south, he becomes increasingly unhinged and aggressive, and most of his fury is aimed at Maddie, who is the only one in the family who can stand up to him.

It's not physical abuse as much as verbal and mental abuse, although he does try to run his older daughter down with a car. Because Stella was rescued by him, she is unable to stand up to him or defend her daughters. Instead she finds herself accommodating to his moods, apologizing for him to her daughters, and playing the typical codependent--finding hope when he is behaving well and believing that at last he has changed, only to have her hopes dashed the next moment.

"Mighty Fine" is fictional, but based on writer/director Debbie Goodstein's own childhood. "My father had anger issues, ups and downs, and living in his world could be a bit of a rollercoaster ride," says Goodstein. "He loved his family but had self-destructive impulses and a rage that made life with him unpredictable and sometimes very scary." The movie is narrated by the youngest daughter, presumably Goodstein's character (voiced by Janeane Garafalo). Because of this narration, I had a lot of empathy for the youngest daughter. But the character I liked the best was the oldest daughter, because of her inner spark and willingness to stand up to her bully father. I liked her fire and passion, along with her inner wisdom that this is not the way a father should act.

One thing I found fascinating about the online preview of this movie was that we had a live chat on the side of the screen. Other bloggers were posting their live thoughts about what was happening in the movie, and that was a unique experience. (It would have driven my husband batty, but I thought it was fascinating!) A few of the women had been in abusive relationships (either parents or spouses) themselves, and they found the depiction of this story to be absolutely true to life. Everyone thought that it was a sensitive portrayal of the difficulties in a family beset by abuse and anger, and I even felt some empathy for the dad, who did not want to act the way he did. He clearly adored his family but needed professional help.
At the end of the online premiere, we had a video chat with two of the actors, Rainey Qualley and Chazz Palminteri. I feel very lucky to have seen this sensitive movie in advance of its premiere and also to be able to interact with other women seeing it at the same time, and with two of the talented cast members.

My only criticism of the movie--and this was shared by some of the other women watching--was the short length. At 1 hour, 20 minutes, the film could have delved a bit deeper if it had been 30 minutes longer. It just made us want more.

I encourage you to catch "Mighty Fine" when it comes to your town (or later on DVD). Here's the movie trailer, which bills it as a "comedy/drama." I'd say it's more of a drama than a comedy!

*I participated in a campaign on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for Mighty Fine and the distributor. I received access to an online showing of the film and a promotional item to thank me for participating.

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