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Review: Jewish family faces crisis in 'Mighty Fine'

The semi-autobiographical, 1974-set film looks at a Jewish family in crisis.

May 25, 2012|By Gary Goldstein
  • Maddie (Rainey Qualley) and Stella (Andie MacDowell) observe Natalie Fine take center stage at a middle school award ceremony in a scene from Debbie Goodstein's semi-autobiographical drama.
Maddie (Rainey Qualley) and Stella (Andie MacDowell) observe Natalie… (Adopt Films )

"Mighty Fine," unfortunately, isn't. Although this semi-autobiographical, 1974-set look at a Jewish family in crisis is filled with raw, uncomfortable, complicated emotions, writer-director Debbie Goodstein-Rosenfeld presents her well-intended story as more of a highlights reel of troubled behavior than as an organically unfolding narrative.

At the center of the film's storm is Joe Fine (Chazz Palminteri), a volatile, grandiose control freak who moves his family — and textile plant — from Brooklyn to New Orleans to take advantage of perceived business incentives. But, once ensconced in beyond-their-means splendor, things start fracturing for the Fine clan.

Joe's company teeters, damaged wife Stella (Andie MacDowell), a Holocaust survivor, can't quell his rages, and their children — rebellious high school senior Maddie (Rainey Qualley, MacDowell's real-life daughter) and shy, younger teen, Natalie (Jodelle Ferland), a budding writer — are caught in the crossfire. It all makes for a family therapist's dream scenario, but an otherwise choppy and predictable memory piece.

Palminteri proves a hand-in-glove fit for the wildly unstable Joe, even if the script short-shrifts his personal history. MacDowell is less successful as the enabling Stella, so constricted by her awkward Polish accent and timid persona that she tends to disappear in front of us.

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"Mighty Fine." MPAA rating: R for language and brief nudity. Running time: 1 hour, 20 minutes. At Laemmle's Music Hall 3, Beverly Hills; Laemmle's Playhouse 7, Pasadena; Laemmle's Town Center 5, Encino.

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