After the death of one’s parents, it’s typical to divide their assets as part of an inheritance. In Italy, though, the courts are so backed up that it’s easier to do it all now and not wait for the whole death thing. So, Mallatta (Dawn Campion), the matriarch of the Parlazzi family, has summoned her five daughters to the family home to divide up the valuable art and furniture in Doug Bremner’s feature Inheritance Italian Style.
If you come from a large family, gatherings have a way of resurrecting all our childhood petty fights and dysfunction. Natascia (Caroline Granger), the oldest, is a successful businesswoman — not that her mother would notice. She’s married to the doting yet bland Arie (Rob Maniscalco). As the name implies, Seconda (Zoe Myers) is the second-oldest and seems to be competing for her mother and neglectful husband’s (Isma’il Ibn Conner) affections.
Fulvia’s (Maggie Henry) marriage is on shaky ground, as her husband, Aboyance (William Neenan), needs cash to keep his art studio afloat. Next, Tristana’s (Tori Montgomery) depression has left her lying on the street under a parked car. Finally, Duplecia (Concetta DeLuco) spends most of her time in the garden with the gardener’s son, Albangzo (Tim Ross), and could care less about the family fortune.
Inheritance Italian Style straddles that line between drama and comedy. The story has its silly moments, such as Arie’s fetish for used Amish womens’ underwear or how all the husbands are exiled to Lucky’s apartment with his mistress to commiserate in their failures. However, the drama stems from the relationship between the siblings. Though the women are adults, this weekend allows each to re-evaluate their lives and take bold steps in new directions.
The film is a labor of love for writer/director Bremner. A lifelong author, this is his first foray into screenwriting. But, like many indie filmmakers, Bremner realized that to make a movie, he’d have to do it himself. Thus, a Kickstarter campaign was born.
“…has summoned her five daughters to the family home to divide up the valuable art and furniture…”
I like dark and dry humor, though the light tone of Inheritance Italian Style works and makes for a feel-good tale about family. Yes, there are a lot of characters, but Bremner manages to make every person distinct enough for audiences to handle. Plus, for a large cast, the dialogue works for each individual quite well. Let me also say this: I’m not sure how authentic the Italian names are, but I love that zero attention is drawn to them. Well done!
The themes behind the family dynamic are pretty standard. Their gathering creates a catalyst to stir-up old family issues. However, everyone realizes that their life’s paths lead to dead ends. Yet no one knows us better than family, and by confronting the past, each sister can move on. As there are five sisters, the spectrum of family issues is broad, and I’d argue that having fewer conflicts means more time to really dig into the juicier ones.
Let’s talk about the overall production. As mentioned, Inheritance Italian Style is a low-budget Kickstarter indie. However, Bremner employs several techniques to make up for the lack of funds. First, it was shot in Atlanta and not Sicily. Second, the filmmaker effectively uses stock footage and the lush nature of Atlanta to pull off an Italian illusion.
Also, the pool of acting in Atlanta is limited, especially if you’re trying to get authentic Italian performances… and accents. So let’s just say it’s a mixed bag, but all is forgivable. Lastly, the big miss is the make-up on Michael Scimeca as the patriarch, Professore Rigortortis Parlazzi. His appearance is, well, laughable, but kudos for making the attempt.
Weaknesses aside, you do what you have to do to make your movie, and though the result is not perfect, it’s downright admirable. If you’re looking for a light family drama, Inheritance Italian Style delivers and a feel-good shot to the heart.
"…delivers and a feel-good shot to the heart."