About My Father Review: In A World Chasing Daddy, Robert De Niro Makes You Want To Hug Your DadDe Niro is so cute!
If The Intern made you ugly cry, welcome, fellow lover of Robert De Niro playing adorable father figure roles. You’ve arrived in the right place. About My Father gets you laughing loudly and even makes the eye corners a little wet with its wholesome and hilarious portrayal of an Italian immigrant father-son duo’s relationship. The comedy is directed by Laura Terruso, and stars Italian American standup comedian and actor Sebastian Maniscalco as himself and Robert De Niro as his father, Salvo. The supporting cast includes Leslie Bibb, David Rasche, Anders Holm, Brett Dier, and Kim Cattrall. The screenplay is by Maniscalco and Austen Earl.
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Sebastian is the son of a rather traditional Italian man, hairdresser Salvo Maniscalco, who emigrated from Sicily to America. Salvo lives his life by a code and has drilled it into Sebastian too, some of which he enjoys and others he grudgingly endures. When Sebastian plans to propose to his rich American girlfriend Ellie, he finds himself and Salvo invited to Ellie’s parent’s country club for a ‘meet the parents’ weekend. Sebastian is stretched thin between impressing Ellie’s conservative-rich parents so they’ll give him their blessing, and trying to keep his father happy so he’ll give Sebastian his grandma’s engagement ring for the proposal. Hilarity ensues when these Italian and American values collide!
Sebastian Maniscalco won half the battle by having an IRL father like Salvo Maniscalco. Their father-son relationship clearly makes great material for his sets, which seem to have been expanded into this full-blown film. The story and plot are formulaic, a standard family comedy where you can predict what’s going to happen if you’ve seen the trailer.
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But Maniscalco leads it well. The writing is funny, notably during the voiceovers that he does as the narrator. The punchlines land, particularly the ones where he draws comparisons between his immigrant father’s traditional Italian values and his girlfriend Ellie’s American (technically also immigrant) family just being overbearing and posh. He also has good chemistry with his De Niro, which plays out well in their scenes together. Maniscalco is able to pull from what I assume are the struggles of kids who’re raised by traditionalist parents that are borderline liberal too.
The other half of the battle, the bigger chunk, was won when Robert De Niro, Maniscalco’s first choice to play the father, said yes. Once you see him, you cannot picture anyone but De Niro playing Salvo, a Sicilian hairdresser with the flair to charm anyone he meets. De Niro really is the highlight of this otherwise standard film, with his endearing portrayal of a recently widowed man afraid of losing his son to marriage into a flashy rich American family.
He wears the bling, and he smokes the cigar, and nails the body language, with bursts of Sicilian when reprimanding his son. This one particular father-son ritual involving cologne that the two actors do is hilarious! And he manages to bring an undercurrent of wisdom to his Salvo. His son thinks of him as a rigidly traditional man, but all he did was provide for his family and bring up his son to be a good man like him, who isn’t distracted by shiny prospects or people. Like most good parents, Salvo ultimately cares about his child’s happiness, and De Niro manages to bring on that emotional complexity beautifully.
The leads are ably supported by the rest of the cast, even though they have rather cookie-cutter characters. Nevertheless, it all works as a whole. I found myself laughing out loud and just generally enjoying the antics and goof-ups, and just wanting to hug De Niro’s Salvo. This one scene between him and Kim Cattrall was definitely a highlight, and so was the climax, which might make the sensitive one sniffle. With a crisp runtime of 1 hour and 29 minutes, the film is nicely packed, without a dull moment.
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If I had a penny for every time I squealed, “Robert De Niro is cute in this movie!” I’d probably be rich enough to sponsor my Cannes ticket and sneak into the Killers Of The Flower Moon screening. What a legend to do this and Killers in one year, and apparently become a father for the 7th time at the age of 79, all in the same year.
About My Father could’ve been just another formulaic ‘meet the parents’ family comedy, but surprises by being immensely entertaining and funny. It’s interesting to ponder if, minus De Niro, this film would drag me to theatres to watch it instead of waiting for a digital release. But now that I’ve seen it, I’d totally recommend taking your dad for an early Father’s Day outing to watch this one. It’s a clean comedy you can watch with the family. What’s more, at a time when the whole world is chasing after Daddy and Zaddy, this film, and De Niro’s performance, will surely make you want to hug your dad. And go perfume shopping with him. Trust me.
Lionsgate’s About My Father is currently in theatres.