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'Friends & Family' reunites cliches

Mafia and gay stereotypes abound in clumsily directed film.

May 16, 2003|Kevin Thomas | Times Staff Writer

With a film like "Friends & Family," who needs enemies? It is an inept, inane Mafia comedy with a gay angle, all the more insufferable because director Kristen Coury and writer Joseph Triebwasser clearly think they're being wonderfully cute and clever.

In her screen debut, Coury, who has a theater background, shows no aptitude for filmmaking. And it's confounding that on the basis of the script for this film Triebwasser made Variety's list of "10 screenwriters to watch." (Even more confounding: Linda Moran, one of the film's producers, was also a producer of "L.I.E.," with its groundbreaking depiction of a gay pedophile.)

Stephen (Greg Lauren) and Danny (Christopher Gartin) are a handsome young gay couple with a chic Manhattan townhouse and designer wardrobes. They have an ideal relationship, and they support their lavish lifestyle as hit men for a Mafia kingpin, Victor (Tony Lo Bianco), who regards them as a father would and wishes his own sons were more like them. In fact, one would rather be a chef and the other a designer.

Stephen is thrown into a tizzy when his overbearing airhead of a mother (Beth Fowler) phones from a plane about to land at JFK to announce a surprise visit to celebrate the birthday of his father (Frank Pellegrino). Stephen's parents know and accept that he and Danny are lovers but are under the impression that they're in the catering business. What Victor doesn't know is that the father of one of his most trusted henchmen is not a carpet salesman but an FBI agent.

Not only is Victor forgiving of this failure to disclose, but he insists on providing an ornate old movie palace as the site of a spectacular birthday for Stephen's father. Getting into the act is Victor's daughter Jenny (Rebecca Creskoff), who lines up one brother to cook, the other to decorate. Jenny will use the occasion to introduce to one and all her fiance (Patrick Collins), whose parents (Tovah Feldshuh, Brian Lane Green), unbeknownst to their son, are leaders of a Wisconsin militia and plan to attend the party with cohorts to start no less than the second American Revolution.

For reasons unclear, Jenny feels that her father's soldiers, pressed into duty as waiters, must pretend to be flamboyantly gay, flooding the screen with outrageous stereotypical behavior. Since the film's tone is affectionate, this display is not offensive, just terribly stale. That these Runyonesque characters have to be coached in references to Cher, Judy and Liza, along with being able to list all of Elizabeth Taylor's husbands, represents a decidedly retro notion of gay sensibility. As "Friends & Family" becomes sillier and dumber with each passing second, it elicits the suspicion that an underworld funeral would be much more fun.

*

'Friends & Family'

MPAA rating: Unrated

Times guidelines: Adult themes and situations

Greg Lauren...Stephen Torcelli

Christopher Gartin...Danny Russo

Tony Lo Bianco...Victor Patrizzi

Tovah Feldshuh...Alma Jennings

Anna Maria Alberghetti...Stella Patrizzi

A Regent Entertainment of a Charleson Pictures presentation in association with Belladonna Productions. Director Kristen Coury. Producers Linda Moran, Kristen Coury, Joseph Triebwasser. Screenplay Joseph Triebwasser. Cinematographer John Leuba. Editor Tom Swarthout. Music Kurt Hoffman. Costumes Michelle Martini. Production designer Sonya Gropman. Running time: 1 hour, 27 minutes.

Exclusively at the Regent Showcase, 614 N. La Brea Ave., (323) 934-2944.

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