Mafia Mamma

Director: Catherine Hardwicke
Starring: Toni Collette, Monica Bellucci, Sophia Nomvete, Alessandro Bressanello, Giulio Corso, Eduardo Scarpetta
Distributor: Paramount Pictures Australia
Runtime: 101 mins. Reviewed in Apr 2023
Reviewer: Peter W Sheehan
| JustWatch |
Rating notes: Strong violence, coarse language and sexual references

This American action-comedy tells the story of an American mother who inherits the mafia empire in Italy from her grandfather. Against all expectations, she succeeds in her new role.

This US comedy film is directed from a screenplay, written by J Michael Feldman and Deborah Jhoon which was based on an original story by Amanda Sthers. The film is co-produced by Australian actress, Toni Collette, who stars in the film as a mild-mannered, insecure middle-aged writer, Kristin, who manages to change her identity. The film is a parody of mobster movies.

Kristin’s grandfather, Giuseppe Balbano (Bressanello), who was never close to her, was the boss of a powerful mafia family in Calabria, Italy. Kristin finds out in a phone call from her grandfather’s consigliere Bianca (Bellucci) that she has inherited her grandfather’s mafia empire.

Bianca entices Kristin to travel to Rome to attend her estranged grandfather’s funeral service. Kristin thinks Rome is a fun city to visit and accepts. The funeral procession in Rome, however, is ambushed by armed assassins, who try to kill those at the funeral, including Kristin. Kristin is seen as the threatening head of a trauma-prone family business.

Her domestic and work problems back in the US suddenly seem secondary and her friend, Jenny (Nomvete), who tells her that she needs a new life, urges Kristin to hear the call of Rome.

After the funeral of her grandfather turns into a violent gunfight, Kristin takes on the mantel of ‘Boss’ guided by Bianca. Once a lonely suburbanite, she now finds herself thrust unwillingly into the world of organised crime.

Kristin has to gain respect as the new leader of one of Italy’s most feared crime families in order to stay alive, and knows she has precious little time to learn how to be a ruthless mob boss. She reluctantly accepts the fact that she is the last living blood relative of her grandfather, and embraces the life as the new head of a most unusual family business.

Kristin defies the expectations in her new role. In Rome, she learns how to be a woman who can survive in a man’s world.

Collette has a wide number of quality films to her credit. She excelled as a haunted boy’s mother in The Sixth Sense (1999), and showed a definite flair for comedy in Muriel’s Wedding (1994) and Little Miss Sunshine (2006).

This film has its share of blood, and violence, and a good deal of gruesome imagery that gets by because the film wears its parody-style heavily. But as with Muriel’s Wedding, the film projects a determined woman’s need to assert her own identity.

As Kristin consolidates her new-found crime identity, the film displays Collette’s comic talents to good advantage. When histrionic acting is required in the early stages of the plot’s development, Collette rises to the challenge, albeit a little theatrically. However, dramatic events quickly intervene to shape a new Kristin.

This is a likeable film, with comic thrust. Collette brings a wide range of talents to her role. Mafia Mamma may not be her best movie, but she captures the mafia spirit in impressive style.

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