Big Night (1996)
Directed by Campbell Scott and Stanley Tucci
Written by Joseph Tropiano and Stanley Tucci

Like a long, languid, stomach-stuffing Italian dinner, Big Night moves slowly and deliberately, setting the table carefully and then serving itself up with subtlety and grace. It's very much an actors' movie, full of textured performances and moments of unspoken revelation.

That said, it's definitely a movie you have to be in the mood to watch. There's nothing exciting about Big Night, and you don't want to watch it if you're hungry.

Stanley Tucci and Tony Shaloub play Italian brothers whose restaurant is on the verge of failing because customers don't connect with their connoisseur food – Shaloub, the artist-chef, refuses to give the people their spaghetti and meatballs. Tucci only wants to make it in America, but can't forge a definite path of action. Their relationship and cross-purposes form the heart of the movie, while tantalizing scenes of glorious, gluttonous food and classic Italian-American songs provide the window dressing.

Shaloub is a marvel, Tucci is good, and the support cast is mostly fabulous, especially Ian Holm (Bilbo from Lord of the Rings) as successful businessman Pascal, Isabella Rosellini as Pascal's girlfriend and Tucci's mistress, Marc Anthony as the sheepish kitchen assistant, and Allison Janney as Shaloub's love interest. Minnie Driver is sadly on hand to bring things down a notch, but even she can't sink the ship. As for Campbell Scott, I can't explain it – I just don't like the guy.

It's a small film, downbeat and low-key, a little sleeper that ought to be better regarded. If you're looking for excitement, you're very much in the wrong place, but for a quiet night in with a good meal, good wine, and good company, Big Night is a tasty main course with no diarrheal reprisals.

Review by Portia Potti