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big hit
rupie30 June 1999
Warning: Spoilers
This is an excellent little movie which looks like it's about food but is actually about the search for success, the striving for excellence in a crass and uncaring world, and brotherly devotion. Two Italian brothers run a little restaurant serving superb food as a labor of love, but it's failing, in contrast to the wildly successful spaghetti emporium down the street with execrable food but which is raking in the big bucks. The story line - set in the late 50's U.S.A. - is paper thin, but the movie is populated with interesting, likable people and the tale is lovingly told with an excellent script and superb acting all around, especially from the two brothers and from Ian Holm, the British actor, who does an unexpectedly great job as the owner of the red sauce place (Ian Holm playing an Italian? Yes, stunningly). Caring seriously about food does help one to appreciate this flick; I have never seen the preparation and serving of food presented so beautifully and lovingly in a movie. The final, wordless scene, in which a simple omelette is prepared and the brothers express their reconciliation, is, for me, one of the most eloquently poetic codas I have ever seen. This is a warm-hearted movie with a great deal of humor that rates an A+.
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A great "little" film
Nog28 March 2006
After having looked over my reviews on IMDb, I noticed that only one of them was enthusiastic. That should be rectified, since I consider myself a big fan of cinema, and I choose as my second enthusiastic recommendation Big Night. This is one of those films that doesn't have to show off. It's a slice of life sort of thing going on here, with an assortment of people with strengths and faults, but who all value life's simple pleasures, like good food. It's a story about the underdogs , and their hopes and dreams and struggles -- some within reach, some not. It's got a good cast too. They all make it look easy, but they have a charming script and careful direction. I think Billy Wilder would have approved. At turns funny and touching, and the last scene -- several minutes without a word of dialogue -- is pure gold.
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A truly great "small" film...
tberardi127 January 2004
I can't even begin to explain how much I love this film. First, it may be one of the great "food movies" of all time. Anyone who considers him/herself a lover of good food and doesn't drool over the "timpano" alone should check their pulse... And the performances are remarkably restrained, yet lively. Stanley Tucci is sublime, Tony Shalhoub is, as always, a marvel. Truly interesting camerawork that draws one in, yet doesn't detract (or distract) from the story or the characters. Because, at its heart, this is a character-driven piece -- about the love and mutual respect shared by two strong-willed siblings. Someday I will take part in a feast like that shared by the characters in this film, and on that day, I will be an extraordinarily happy man. Until then, I'll watch this movie again and again.
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The crisis of immigration
Corail13 March 2002
I just need to mention that this is my friend's review that I wanted, with his permission, to share with you. I believe his meticulous view has discovered a veiled aspect which most of us have missed.



`Big Night' is a movie not so much about food and Italian cuisine but rather about cultural encounter and identity crises that most immigrants face upon their arrival in the new homeland.

The story cleverly unfolds the multi-personalities of an immigrant's character in a metaphorical representation. A character that is overwhelmed in a fierce inner struggle, constantly striving to reach a desired compromised. The big night is a milestone in an eventful and often chaotic journey. It's a moment for close encounter with reality.

The movie is about two brothers, Italian immigrants, trying to run ` Paradise' a gourmet restaurant. Primo is an uncompromising chef, who wishes to educate Americans to appreciate `The Real Italian Food'. Despite the obvious failure of their business, he stubbornly defies his customers' conception of Italian food. He simply cannot stand it when, a customer wants her risotto, painstakingly prepared seafood, with spaghetti and meatballs, and he calls her a `Philistine'.

While the brothers are battling for survival, Pascal, another Italian immigrant one generation older, runs a busy restaurant that fulfills the American conception of Italian food. Pascal is the kind of immigrant who has a clear mission statement. He is here to do business.

Secondo, the younger brother, who is in charge of management and accounting tries to convince his brother to give in and accept the business realities. He is in favor of changes to save the `Paradise'.

Primo the gifted chef, Secondo the manager who wants to run his business with the Rules of the Game, and finally Christian that mysteriously and quietly is there for the brothers in times of need, all are three aspects of the same person. A person lost and exhausted in the `Paradise'. Torn apart between Pascal who runs an enormously successful Italian restaurant across the street and Alberto the isolated barber who preserved his old social values.

The Movie begins with a scene that shows Christian in deep thought looking at the sea. We will see him often around the brothers throughout the movie. He hardly says anything. However, his presence has a mysterious significance yet unrevealed. Perhaps, an aspect of the immigrants' character that is more fundamental than the ones affected by cultural differences.

Primo represents that side of the immigrant that's terrified by the might of the new culture and the impending changes that eventually unravel. He is reserved, strongly opinionated and scared that he may lose it all in this journey and end up `eaten up' by the new culture.

Secondo shows us the willingness of the immigrant for discovery, understanding and adaptation to the new social values. He looks up to Pascal for advice and, as Gabriella (Pascal's mistress) puts it, sees him as a `lighthouse' in a raging sea.

The night of the feast is an important milestone in this evolutionary process. It is an opportunity for Primo to show us what he possesses and how precious those possessions are. At the same time, it's a moment to face the reality that `Paradise' is in trouble and without a compromise it won't make it.

The film ends with Secondo, Christian and Primo eating three scrambled eggs the morning after the big night. Scrambled eggs and bread, a basic food in both cultures, implying a retreat to a common ground, for further evaluation and perhaps some adjustments. The movie, quite appropriately, doesn't reveal the direction that our immigrants will take. However, it beautifully displays the quiet coexistence of three personalities in a more persuasive journey!

I wonder if `the Big Night' is an adaptation of Freudian Psychoanalysis. If so could you identify `Id', ` Ego' and `superego'?

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Eat first!
Boyo-216 February 1999
This movie is fantastic. You feel like you are on the Jersey shore and can smell the sauce being cooked. Even Minnie Driver is great! Eat something first because the food consumed and prepared during the movie will have you drooling.
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Beautiful film that has it all.
thehumanduvet1 March 2000
This is just amazing, quite unlike any other "american" film I ever saw; a gentle, bittersweet tale of frustrated dreams and artistic integrity, an hilarious comedy of manners performed by an outstanding international cast, a touching blend of awkward romance and the central relationship between the two brothers, brilliantly portrayed by co-creator Tucci and Hollywood's "every-foreigner", the sublime Tony Shalhoub. Big Night dragged me through wider range of emotions than any other movie, it made me want to dance and sing during the party scene (Mambo Italiano), made me laugh out loud at the wacky characters sprinkled throughout, made me angry with the philistines and money-grabbing capitalists who spoil the brothers' dream, made me want to hug Shalhoub's shy gastronomic genius Primo as he tried so clumsily to chat up his flower-girl; the food looked simply amazing, Minnie Driver splashing around in the sea was at her most gorgeous, every actor played their brilliantly scripted part to perfection and the scene at the end with the omelette is the most beautiful and poignant ending I could ever hope to see. All in all this film is one of the best ever made and everyone in the world and especially in Hollywood should be forced to watch it every week until they get some humanity back in them. But not on an empty stomache, get some snacks in first eh.
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Brotherly love
rosscinema14 May 2003
Campbell Scott and Stanley Tucci are good friends in real life and together they made this delicious gem. Tucci plays Secondo who along with his brother Primo (Tony Shalhoub) run a restaurant named the Paradise. Primo is a genius as a chef but they are on the verge of going out of business so Secondo goes down the street to a very popular place run by an acquaintance named Pascal (Ian Holm) and Secondo asks for a loan. Pascal doesn't give it to him but decides to help him by having singer Louis Prima come to their restaurant with the press knowing he's coming also. Their restaurant will become famous when its mentioned in the paper so the two brothers plan a big night with special meals. Secondo invites his girlfriend Phyllis (Minnie Driver) and Primo wants to invite the flower shop woman Ann (Allison Janney) but is to shy. Secondo helps him out by inviting her. This is another enjoyable film where food is the common component that enables them to communicate. The food and its preparation is the art of the film. Watching Primo prepare meals is a real spectacle to behold. He really does come across as a great chef, there is no doubt as you watch this. But at the core of this film is the love and respect of Secondo and Primo as brothers. Even when they argue it is done with mutual respect. Yes, they get furious but at no real time do we get the feeling that they will walk away from one another. Scott and Tucci have created a wonderful blend of food and love and its the relationship between the two brothers that is the key here. Secondo is having problems committing to Phyllis and while its an important part of the film, its not the main focus. Janney adds just the right touch as Ann and you can understand the awe that she feels when she watches Primo at work and can witness his skill first hand. Tucci and Shalhoub shine in their roles and together they bring a very good film up another notch! This film also does a believable job of recreating the time period that the film is suppose to take place in. When people ask me for a good film to rent I always think of this one. Its a real gem.
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Culturally Rich Slice of Life
jzappa13 May 2007
Big Night is a peaceful joy to watch because its themes and the overall feeling of the film is so normal. The characters, so beautifully rich, are realistic and so are their problems. The characters are mainly wonderfully, infectiously bombastic Italians, and entire scenes are sometimes constructed of the process of making Italian food from scratch. The subtlety and unaffronting reality of these qualities are so endearing to me. In fact, the scene that leaves an imprint on me more than any of the others, despite how fun it is to see the actors have a blast playing fiery, thick-mustachioed men with heavy Italian accents, is a scene that hardly has a connection with any of the others. An Italian ballad is playing over the soundtrack through the previous scene and continues into this scene, wherein Marc Anthony, playing a low-level restaurant bus boy, a small, quiet, incidental character, begins dancing with himself as he mops the floor of the restaurant. When other characters enter, the music, coming from nowhere but the film's soundtrack itself, cuts off and he continues mopping the floor as if the dancing never happened. It's so touching for that scene to have been slipped in, giving a person who is only against the background of everyone's lives a dreamy, sensitive personality that he keeps to himself.

The focal point of the film is the chemistry between the characters of Stanley Tucci, playing a hard-working, pleading, frustrated restaurant owner, whose head carries only logic and a goal for success, and Tony Shalhoub, his brother, whose aggressive passion is for the food he cooks and the mystery and subtext within it, yet his interaction with people is painfully shy. Their clashes of pride, their battles with each other's completely different perspectives, and yet their sharing of the same dream are what drives the story.

A lot of the film's humor comes from the hilarity of Ian Holm. Ian Holm, a stiff-limbed Englishman, plays here a loud, very animated, hot-tempered Italian entrepreneur with a seamless and wonderfully entertaining delivery of an Italian accent and Italian movements. It's my favorite performance of his because I had never before imagined that he would play a role like this.

Big Night is not a masterpiece nor do I think it was even meant to be one, but what it is is subtle and interesting for purely human reasons. It's soundtrack is also a fantastic celebration of Italian music.
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A feast
SKG-219 March 1999
When the British film magazine Sight & Sound had one of their periodic times of asking critics to list what they thought were the best films ever made, there was a book which collected articles by several of them, one of whom said that if you were the type of person who didn't tear up at THE BELLS OF ST. MARY'S, he didn't want to know you. I try to avoid that philosophy, but if I endorsed it, BIG NIGHT would be that type of film for me, a litmus test. This is a wonderful movie, and I usually am not a big fan of food movies. I thought BABETTE'S FEAST was too full of whimsy, and whimsy also bogged down the often good TAMPOPO(EAT DRINK MAN WOMAN, it could be argued, was a relationship movie which happened to be set in the world of food, where the others are inextricably food movies). But this was wonderful.

Tucci and Scott said they studied a lot of film masters, and it shows here; there's nothing that screams "first film." Instead, they take their time telling the story, and setting up characters we care about, even Pascal, the rival restaurant owner. And a lesser movie wouldn't have had the scene between Isabella Rosellini and Minnie Driver which is quiet yet moving, like the rest of the movie. The food scenes live up to the hype, and that final scene is moving.
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The Movie IS the Meal
noodlesalad-953-36141324 March 2018
Why write a review for a movie that's over twenty years old? Primarily because of the number of reviews that don't seem to appreciate what the movie really is. Even many of the positive reviews unwittingly consign it to the purgatory of "food movie," warning potential viewers not to watch it on an empty stomach, but this quiet, deceptively simple film contains the layers, complexity, and hidden surprises of a timpano, the grand, stuffed main course of the meal at the center of the picture.

Layer One: Food. Even though it is more than a food movie, let's not rush past that part too quickly. The central event of the story is a meal prepared for celebrity guest Louis Prima, whose anticipated presence promises to save the struggling restaurant of the brothers we know simply as Primo (Tony Shaloub) and Secondo (Stanley Tucci). Primo takes his food seriously and so should we. Every shot of it is beautiful and fills the viewer with longing and desperation at not being able to smell and taste every enticing course, even when another bite doesn't seem possible! Layer Two: Fraternity. The relationship between Primo and Secondo is anything but easy, and as is often the case with those closest to us, the thing each brother values in the other is the very thing that drives him crazy. Primo's uncompromising commitment to his art is, at least in aspiring businessman Secondo's view, the reason why they are struggling, in comparison to nearby competitor Pascal (Ian Holm) whose circus of Italian culinary cliches is full every night. Tucci's ability to capture that quiet desperation of a man torn between family and success rings true with anyone who's felt the competing pressure to succeed and remain true to oneself. Layer Three: Creativity. How does one whose only goal is to make something beautiful succeed in this world? What if no one else appreciates that beauty? What if the compromises one must make to produce that art risk the soul of the artist? There aren't a lot of interviews about this movie wandering around the internet, but I suspect that for Tucci, who co-wrote and directed the picture with Campbell Scott, this was a driving passion behind the movie in the first place. Primo's commitment sets up much of the movie's comedy-from railing against a patron who wants a side of spaghetti with her risotto to mocking his brother's suggestion of removing said risotto from the menu altogether. But here too is the bitterness of the picture. The older brother is free to pursue his art, generally unencumbered by concerns about how well it sells, but we see the cost of such purity in his brother's humiliating visit to their lender and the frantic, last-ditch attempt to save the restaurant via the titular event. Layer Four: American Culture. On one level Primo's is the quest of every artist, but the promise of the American dream drives-at some points, literally-the whole movie. We never see the two brothers leaving behind the old world (although it is present in the movie). We never see them getting off the boat or hear the discussions that motivated the trip in the first place, although we get the distinct impression that this was Secondo's project from the beginning. But the promise of America that the film suggests seems to be one where the only path to success is to become the version of you that the culture is prepared to accept-the stereotype, the cliche, who serves meatballs with all spaghetti and doesn't blink twice placing a plate of risotto alongside.

Without divulging too much, there is another meal after the main one. But what's most striking about it is its simplicity-both in content and in form. It was on my second viewing that I got a sense of the thought behind the film and the injustice that it doesn't have a bigger following, but maybe that's just the cost of art in America.

N.B. There was another reason for the timing of this review: the impending release of Tucci's The Last Portrait. If it's anything close to the quality of Big Night, we should all be buying a ticket.
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My favorite movie
Shagrrotten15 June 2015
No movie has ever loved food as much as Big Night, and since food is a passion of mine, it's not hard to see why this is my favorite movie. It's like it was made just for me, with themes of art vs. commerce, immigrants trying to make it in a new place, sibling rivalry, relationship drama, and much more. It touches on a lot of things I find fascinating. I especially enjoy the showing of little things like the fact that spaghetti and meatballs is something that doesn't exist in Italian culture, so it's not on the menu at the real Italian restaurant, but go to the much more successful Italian-American joint up the street and literally every table has spaghetti and meatballs on it because it's a popular Italian-American dish.

It's an underseen movie, but one whose reputation grows year after year, with good reason.
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While the Food Owns the Spotlight, There Is Also a Message
romanorum124 January 2014
Warning: Spoilers
In the mid-1950s, two immigrant brothers from Italy work hard in New Jersey to keep their Italian gourmet restaurant ("Paradise") in operation. The older brother, the temperamental Primo (Tony Shalhoub), is a genius cook, an artiste, but only a cook. The business aspects of the restaurant are handled by his brother Secondo (Stanley Tucci), who also does cooking. He wants to make changes to sustain the business. While the two brothers often clash tempestuously over procedures, they are perceptibly devoted to each other. Nevertheless the reality is that the business, despite its sumptuous food, is struggling to keep afloat. Tony is dismayed when an under-appreciating woman orders both risotto and spaghetti together (both are starches). What also irritates Tony is that the restaurant across the street, Pascal's – which caters to the working man and gives Americans what they think is Italian food – is very successful. "Do you know what happens in that restaurant every night?" says Tony, ". . . the rape of cuisine!" Pascal (Ian Holm), the owner of the competing restaurant later tells Secondo, "A guy works all day, He don't want to look at his plate and ask, 'What the f*** is this.' He wants to look at his plate, see a steak, and say, 'I like steak.'" Secondo, though, wants Tony cater to general public taste to some extent.

Pascal, as a friend of Secondo, offers to assist him. It seems that the great and flamboyant Jazz entertainer Louie Prima is in town. Pascal has his picture on one of his restaurant walls. Pascal, who claims to be Prima's friend, offers to send Prima and his band to the Paradise for dinner and thus drum up publicity for the failing enterprise. So it is that the two brothers agree to work like blazes to prepare a feast for a king: the big night. Obviously much movie time is spent in food gathering and preparation. And what incredible courses that develop! There are the triple risotto, the splendid timpano (with sausage and eggs and meatballs and pasta), that sumptuous fish, the roast pork! Besides being an epicurean's delight the entire dinner scene is fun!

Although some complain about the ambiguous resolution, the movie has important messages, like the difficulties experienced by immigrants, the cultural clashes, the process of adaptability. The scenes are intimate; for instance, note the elegance of the little restaurant, including the kitchen. The feel of the 1950s is there. Notice those large-finned Cadillacs! How about that music! Note that classic cool scene at the end, where the eggs are cooked in real time with nary a spoken word. Both Tony Shalhoub and Stanley Tucci are so good with their hands that they make one believe that they are great chefs! Maybe they are good cooks after all. The supporting cast includes Minnie Driver (Phyllis) and Isabella Rossellini (Gabriella), both of whom look as dazzling as they ever did. Marc Antony as Cristiano also demonstrated his acting skills. And top kudos to co-directors Stanley Tucci (again) and Campbell Scott.

SPOILER: I could not resist but take a peak at the cast to see if a supposed main character was going to show up. As I did not see his name, I suspected what the movie's outcome would be.

One recommendation: Don't watch this one if you are hungry!
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A comedy about food
faraaj-114 September 2006
Big Night was one of the sleeper hits of 1996. A comedy starring an ensemble cast including the two directors Tucci and Campbell Scott, this is very much an actors movie. The script is funny at times and slow at others. All the scenes involving food and especially the ones with the chef Primo are great. The only let-down was the last twenty minutes where everything seemed to fall apart. The entire cast (especially the vastly underrated Campbell Scott) does a great job. There's a great scene with Minnie Driver in the sea coming out all wet - hot! Another great food movie I recall is Babette's Feast. That was more religion-drama and not comedy though. The style of this film is faintly reminiscent of Woody Allen. This film will appeal to all Louis Prima fans.
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Cinematic poetry
dbogosian-130 September 2009
This movie is like a good poem: it doesn't all make sense, but you love experiencing it, and after you're done you keep thinking about it for days and days.

"Big Night" tells of two Italian brothers trying to succeed as restaurateurs in the 1960s. The bulk of the movie revolves a single "big night" in which they unleash their finest dishes in a culinary extravaganza.

The leads, Shalhoub and Tucci, are joined by Ian Holm (depicting a rival restaurateur) in a really memorable set of performances. All the minor supporting characters are equally endearing and real-to-life. There is a lot of attention given to the food and to its preparation, and the cinematography used to actually depict the meal (and the music superimposed onto it) is fantastically enjoyable. It's like the dishes are actors or characters in the play! The movie's final scene is perhaps deserving of the all-time hall of fame. It plays out over several minutes of complete wordless silence, yet it makes such a lasting impression. Ultimately the scene shows that the movie is not about the food or the striving for success, but about the relationship between these brothers, and that the relationship will outlast any of the trials they are undergoing, no matter how severe.

If you insist on a tidy ending that resolves all the issues, don't look here because the ending is completely hanging. Yet somehow I found it satisfying nevertheless. You'll find yourself recalling scenes and lines from the film for weeks to come.
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Yummy! Delectable! Brilliant!
7605120 December 2017
This is one of the best movies you could watch on a cozy evening at home. The actors, the lines, the A list delivery, the music, the story, the comedy! I could almost taste the food :) If you like quirky well acted characters you will like this movie.
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Good, but not as good as I expected
Rumples14 January 1999
I was a bit disappointed in this movie, I guess my expectations had been built up a bit by what I'd heard and read about this film. It is a clever, well produced movie - no question. However, it is also quite slow, and has no real resolution. In the end, all I can say is that it feels like a waste - of a clever idea, of good writing, of a very talented cast - because nothing really happened. Worth a watch but not worth the 7.8 or so it's currently rated at. My vote: 7/10
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Great actors' movie
SnoopyStyle8 February 2014
Two brothers Primo (Tony Shalhoub) and Secondo (Stanley Tucci) own a floundering Italian restaurant. The customers are philistines who frustrate the authentic cooking of Primo. Secondo knows the restaurant is failing and the bank will foreclose at the end of the month. They can't compete with the americanized showman competitor Pascal (Ian Holm). Pascal offers to send famous singer Louis Prima as a customer, and the brothers decide to make a big night.

Stanley Tucci is the driving force for the movie in front of and behind the camera. It's brilliant actors letting other brilliant actors do great work. The characters jump off the screen with their humanity. The brothers' relationship is absolutely fabulous. It is the most delicious of movie making.
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Something Smells Good in the Kitchen
eric26200313 July 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Stanley Tucci, who stars, co-writes and co-directs (along with Campbell Scott who has a cameo as a car salesman), succeeds in an appetizingly brilliant independent film. It success stems from the outstanding cast of talented performers to the compelling soundtrack to the immaculate editing and the scintillating cinematography. So plenty of kudos to those who've contributed to this engaging film.

Tucci stars as Secondo, the younger sibling of two Italian immigrant brothers living a New Jersey who own a restaurant. Secondo is the business part of the duo, the slick guy who owns a fancy Cadillac. Primo (Tony Shalhoub) is the older brother and the master chef who has the gift for creating a plethora of culinary delights that attract people in the area to try his delightful dishes. While serving a seafood risotto to one of his patrons, the patron complains that the seafood is barely visible and that her side dish of spaghetti, didn't come with any meatballs. (One of the best quotes in the movie is..."Sometimes spaghetti wants to be alone").

Primo shrugs to the fact he believes that he is serving to a pack of Philistines. But to be honest, the Philistines are licking their chops over a Pascal's diner across the street. Pascal was played gracefully by Ian Holm, who understands that the customer is always right no matter what. The rivalries between the the opposing restaurants is absolutely astounding.

When financial troubles starts brewing in The Paradise, Secondo turns to Pascal for financial but fends off from working with him. Pascal suggests to Secondo to prepare a no holds barred "big night" that will surely attract customers. Pascal offered to invite a friend of his named Louis Prima, who will eat, indulge and enjoy the atmosphere.

The movie lifts off to this "Big Night" (which also has a side-story of Secondo's troubled love.

During the banquet scenes, "Big Night" shifts the attention to its audience with a wonderful array of savoring food that will make your mouth water. The cast which also stars Isabella Rosselini, Minnie Driver and Allison Janney nails their respected roles to perfection. The cooking scenes look stressful, but is handled in a very subtle fashion.

After the big night, many truths have been confessed, partially because it's hard to betray after such a poignant experience. If these scrumptious dishes doesn't manipulate you into walking out of the theater after the movie, to go out afterward to eat in an Italian restaurant, then what's wrong with you.

What makes the film so impressive is the small things it has to offer. Whether Primo using his cup to tamper coffee grounds to making an omelet, the movie nails all the scenes to perfection. Even if the DVD has little to offer. The film itself will likely to whet your appetite.
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A Gourmet Italian Feast For the Eyes
EmperorNortonII29 December 2005
"Big Night" could be called a gourmet movie. It's the story of two Italian brothers, Primo and Secondo, who run a failing restaurant in New Jersey. The food is excellent, but it's too sophisticated for the locals' taste. They might have to close their doors, but first, they plan a huge dinner, expecting Louis Prima and his band. It's a movie with lots of heart. Many scenes are rich in emotion, even when the characters have no dialogue. Tony Shalhoub gives an intense performance as Primo, the chef who always strives for perfection in haute cuisine. The food seems to become a character in itself, particularly the pasta colossus, the timpano. "Big Night" is the kind of movie you wish you could taste!
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waiting for Godot, cuisine-style
lee_eisenberg31 July 2006
Like "Chocolat", "Big Night" is the sort of movie that makes your mouth water. Portraying Italian immigrant brothers Primo (Tony Shalhoub) and Secondo (Stanley Tucci) trying to recruit Louis Prima to sing at their ailing restaurant in 1950s New Jersey, it's a great movie from various aspects. I felt like I just wanted to jump into the movie and eat everything on the screen.

Anyway, it's a movie that I recommend to everyone. This was certainly a great introduction for me to both Shalhoub and Tucci. I still enjoy thinking about it. Also starring Minnie Driver, Isabella Rossellini, Liev Schreiber, Ian Holm and Allison Janney.
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one of the best movies about food
MartinHafer5 September 2005
Apart from Babette's Feast, this is probably the best food-themed movie I have ever seen. Despite sounding dreadfully dull, the entire movie is about two brothers who own a struggling restaurant and the preparations they make for a special dinner which will be attended by the singer, Louis Prima (King Louie's voice in Disney's Jungle Book). How is this interesting? Well, the relationships between the characters are so well-written and the acting is so good you really find yourself caring about these ordinary and very believable people. It is a fine counter-point to the often loud and vulgar fare from Hollywood and in many ways is reminiscent of a foreign film (particularly the excellent German film "Mostly Martha"), though it was made in the good old USA.
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tedg18 April 2002
Warning: Spoilers
Spoilers herein.

`Eat Drink Man Woman' works because the chief chef is wholly dedicated to living his life through his food. That food has purpose: it expresses his love for his daughters. He doesn't make food for the food, but for the consumers of the food. The food is a direct link between souls. Ang Lee directs his film the same way: he is dedicated to the art as a matter of pleasing us. It is a gift from him to us.

This film, `Big Night,' is different. Not a matter of dedication but of obsession. Not a matter of pleasing us, but pleasing the chef and directors/actors. As with the food and film, we are taken on a fun ride as everything Scott and Tucci can do is done. The camera swoops as if dePalma wrote the recipe; pairs banter as if Mamet was writing; props are used as if Ridley were in charge.

But nothing here is inspired, it is all by the recipe.

It is because of this obsession that I re-watched this. In the last two days, I've seen Shalhoub in `Thirteen Ghosts' and `The Man Who Wasn't There.' in all three of these cases, the filmmakers depended on his excess. But I think this case is different, because actors are in charge, and they appreciate this sort of obsession: just like we are supposed to admire Primo.
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Leaves a bland taste in your mouth
BradLacey2 February 2006
Ostensibly, there's nothing at all wrong with this film. It's nice enough - characters that you can (mostly) identify with, a wonderful sense of forgiving family that we all either have or wish we had, and some predictably humorous fish out of water moments as we watch our two Italian protagonists struggle to get along in the States.

But there's nothing really beyond that - the problems faced by the two brothers, Stanley Tucci (who also directed) and Tony Shalhoub, are the same we've seen time and time again. Tucci, playing the self-centered but occasionally "adorable" (well I think that's what he's aiming for) Secondo, cheats on his girlfriend and paces around depressingly, presumably too hung up on the monetary problems he faces when he and his brother's restaurant looks like going bottom up to care about much else. And his brother Primo, played by Shalhoub, is so little more than a device to elicit more sympathy for the familial pains that they must all surely be feeling - unfortunately, it's hit and miss at the best of times.

Instead, the film's only moments of real resonance come in the humorous asides of the communal gatherings in the restaurant itself, relying not on the chemistry of the two brothers, but instead on the audience's preconceived notions of family and community and the occasional joke that actually hits its target.

The film isn't bad for a lack of trying, and it credit is due for the fact that it manages to come together at all. But the more subtle moments - like the silent final shot of the film - tend to say far more than the scenes which are overwritten to do exactly that. Big Night is a reasonable time waster and its occasional moments of humour do enough to relieve the boredom that might otherwise set in, but for the most part it is as dull as its horribly unimaginative title forebodes.

If you want a real feel-good film that focuses on food but doesn't leave such a bland taste in your mouth, try Ang Lee's superb Eat Drink, Man Woman.
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Uh, oh. It's one of *those* movies
pappythesailor8 June 2006
Warning: Spoilers
About 45 minutes into this movie, you start to realize this is one of *those* movies. It's one of those movies that never really gets started, then you realize, it's not going to tell you the story you want. Then you realize, it's not going to tell you any story whatsoever. You care about the characters; you want them to succeed, you'd even be willing to see them fail but in the end you're left with questions about what it all means. What happens now? It's all very unsatisfying. Sort of like smelling the food but never getting to eat it.

Why did they open a restaurant across from another, wildly successful Italian restaurant?
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crystal075-705-90402319 April 2017
One of the best ensemble films ever. All of life's lessons told gently and with humour. The cast is amazing and it didn't feel like anyone was outplaying another. Such a lovely gem. Oh, and the food!!!! I need every recipe. Watch this when you need to see something to savor. You won't want to miss any of it. WOnderful direction and character development.
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