Sebastian Maniscalco’s screenplay for Laura Terruso’s About My Father shows Catholic guilt in full force. The fictional version of himself is the receiver of that guilt and that guilt manifests through a fictional version of his father Salvo (Robert De Niro), who makes him feel bad about their first time spending the Fourth of July apart. Salvo came to America as an immigrant turn veteran turned hairstylists, how dare he, etc.
In fairness to Sebastian, he has a good reason for breaking tradition. His girlfriend Ellie (Leslie Bibb) invites him to Roanoke where her Conservative family has a summer house. That was her family showing that they approve of Ellie dating an Eye-talian, and Sebastain sees this as the perfect place for him to propose. Salvo is still the problem here, so Ellie decides to invite Salvo to Roanoke. Chaos ensues.
About My Father is both conventional and simultaneously the inverse of today’s cinema. Most movies today, especially the non-comedies, are trying way too hard to be funny and thus fail at whatever juggling act they’re trying to pull off. This film, on the other hand, is a comedy with a lot of sincere moments, and somehow, the inverse works.
Yes, they can cast De Niro and give him barbs. In doing so, both he and Maniscalco can trade jokes to say to each other. But that screenplay should also give him a sincere moment to show that he’s playing a human being. He’s thankully not an ethnic stereotype. Which yes, this film is another way for Italians to show that they’re not really white even in 2023 CE. But I will allow it just this once.
Salvo and Sebastian take turns being mad at each other, and when they’re not, they navigate white normalcy until one of them finds something to be mad at each other again. And all’s well that ends well. I wrote enough about De Niro here, but Maniscalco also shows himself to be a presence on screen for those of us who watch too many films and not enough standup comedians.
And of course there’s the supporting cast who help make a film like this work. Having Bibb in a film means that I’m going to have to explain her to older straight men. She’s not as good as she was in Talladega Nights but it’s a good showcase of the quirky side of her that her other roles don’t allow her to be. And Kim Catrall is the best time I’ve had watching a Conservative character, even if the film depoliticizes her.
- Rated: PG-13
- Genre: Comedy
- Release Date: 5/26/2023
- Directed by: Laura Terruso
- Starring: Robert de Niro, Sebastian Maniscalco
- Produced by: Chris Weitz, James Myers, Paul Weitz
- Written by: Austen Earl, Sebastian Maniscalco
- Studio: Depth of Field, Lionsgate