By Doug Brunell | November 29, 2002

“Face to Face” is all about fathers, sons and the problems men have in communicating with one another. It goes from amusing to deeply sentimental in the blink of an eye, but never feels forced, and it definitely ranks as one of the better films to tackle the subject of what it means to be a man in American society. It’s no Fight Club, though, despite the fact that Meat Loaf has a brief scene.
Richie (Scott Baio) and his two cousins have lost their grandfather, and they don’t want to lose their dads without getting to know them. Their fathers (played by Dean Stockwell, Alex Rocco and Joe Viterelli) are the iconic Italian patriarchs; emotions besides anger rarely appear, and they feel life must be suffered in silence while providing for those who depend on them. Their sons (Baio, Thomas Calabro and Carlo Imperato) are a bit more modern in their approach to life. They want to hear about their fathers’ ambitions, and they need to bond, though they often don’t realize it. The boys’ solution: kidnap their fathers and take them on a camping trip.
For all its comedic moments, “Face to Face” raises some serious questions. Namely, if men teach by example, what are we teaching our male children? How much rage can a person hold back before it explodes into a heart attack? At what point do you get the courage to tell your father you love him? And why do so many men hate their fathers only to end up acting just like them? (There’s something very Nietzsche-like in that.) This movie doesn’t answer all those questions, but it attempts a discussion, which is something most men won’t even venture toward even with the specter of death looming overhead. In other words: Don’t plan on seeing this with your father, but do see it. It just may help you understand the man you’ll become.

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