Friends And Family

2003, Movie, NR, 87 mins

Review

FRIENDS AND FAMILY
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Occasionally clever but far too contrived, director Kristen Coury's feature debut, in which a gay couple stage an elaborate deception in order to keep their secret lives a secret, offers a fresh twist on the old LA CAGE AUX FOLLES set-up. But it's not their relationship that openly gay Stephen Torcelli (Greg Lauren) and his lover, Danny Russo (Christopher Gartin), are trying to hide from Stephen's visiting parents (Beth Fowler, Frank Pellegrino). It's the fact that they're not really successful caterers — they're the fiercely loyal bodyguards of Mafia capo Victor Patrizzi (Tony Lo Bianco), sharp-dressed henchmen who wouldn't hesitate to jam a beer bottle down the throat of a famous tenor (Sam Coppola) who's welshing on his debts or subtly intimidate the fiancé (Brian Lane Green) of Victor's daughter, Jenny (Rebecca Creskoff). In short, Stephen and Danny are the sons Victor and his wife (Anna Maria Alberghetti) never had. The sons they did have share no interest in the family business: Vito (Danny Mastrogiorgio) would rather be a chef than be the future Patrizzi padrone, while Frankie's (Lou Carbonneau) passion is fashion. The cozy arrangement starts falling apart the day Stephen gets a phone call from his parents who — surprise! — are en route to New York City to celebrate Mr. Torcelli's birthday. Pushy Mrs. Torcelli suggests that Stephen and Danny throw a big birthday bash; that way she'll not only be able to sample their fabulous cooking, but will also get to meet their friends and clients. The trouble is neither Stephen nor Danny can cook, and their friends and clients are mobsters. Enter flamboyant gossip columnist Richard Grayson (Edward Hibbert), who suggests that Stephen and Danny make like Mickey and Judy and put on a show. With the help of Jenny, Vito and Frankie, Stephen and Danny very nearly pull off an extravagant dinner party, until an unexpected invasion by a right-wing militia group (huh?) turns the evening — and the film — into a disaster. The gay henchman, long a device of such thrillers as THE BIG COMBO and NORTH BY NORTHWEST, could be the center of a great comedy. But Coury and doctor-turned-screenwriter Joseph Treibwasser can't think what do with the idea, so they resort to comedic tangents that don't further the plot in any significant way. The result is a passably entertaining comedy of accretion that doesn't amount to much. leave a comment --Ken Fox

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