The Resurrection of Tony Gitone is a drama abut traditions, family, and friends – that is, if you can make it out over the yelling and excessive upstaging. Ultimately, that’s what makes Jerry Ciccoritti’s film a particularly annoying watch.
Riding high off of a new gig as a leading male in a popular director’s upcoming movie and clutching an attractive big name actress, Nino (played by Fab Filippo) and his date Vanessa Luna (played by Paula Rivera) make room in their busy schedule to return to Nino’s home in Toronto’s Little Italy.
There, he’s welcomed by family and close friends for an evening of Italian food, culture, and catching up – followed by the occasional outburst.
Ciccoritti wears his influences on his sleeve. The environmental cutaways featuring Little Italy reminds us of how Woody Allen made Paris so likeable in Midnight in Paris, and the banter between the central family in The Resurrection of Tony Gitone has the reminisce of Allen’s writing as well.
But, the main influence I was reminded of throughout Ciccoritti’s project was the work of Robert Altman; especially with dialogue scenes featuring family members talking over each other at this busy family dinner.
However, Altman had a very specific way of directing his chaotic scenes. While the main action was going on and you heard mutters from bit players, that quiet dialogue and those supporting actors always understood that they mustn’t draw the viewers’ attention away from the key components in the scene.
In The Resurrection of Tony Gitone, the actors appear to be likeable – if animated – but they’re all sparing with each other to win the centre stage spotlight. I understand this wild back-and-forth is supposed to signify how rowdy and outspoken this family is, but it becomes a problem when the audience is more interested in plugging our ears than lending them to the film.
The cast are all comfortable with one another and they make the friends and family connection easy to believe. However, I have a feeling these players were cast based on their exuberant personalities and robust personas rather than their acting range – which spans from amiable friendliness to sopping melodramatics.
In the press notes, Ciccoritti says, “I was so jones-ed to do something like this with my friends” which suggests that the cast and crew had fun putting this film together – and that plays well on screen. However, with the limitless shouting and seemingly heavy improv, Ciccoritti needed to keep a tighter reign on his actors. Some scenes read as being so directionless, that instead of becoming like one of the character-driven films it wants to be, it plays more like an Italian variation of a sequel to Friday.
On the technical front, the film has been edited in a clunky manner, using different shots that don’t sync up well enough and add a disconnected quality to scenes. The low, shadowy lighting muddles scenes even further as we keep hoping Ciccoritti will keep things staged inside the Il Gatto Nero restaurant for the rest of his film. Additionally, the score is repetitive, using – what feels like – the same handful of songs out of a stock music file labeled ‘Italian Atmosphere’.
The Resurrection of Tony Gitone has its heart in the right place, offering a fly-on-the-wall perspective to Italian culture. I’m glad the actors – who also mean well – are having a joyous time with a project like this. I just wish I was having as much fun as they were.