Since the recent passing of her husband, Dolly’s (Cloris Leachman) main focus in life is about planning her funeral. She enlists the help of her oldest daughter Grace (Mercedes Ruehl) who, aside from being the mother of three and a dutiful wife to her husband Joe (Paul Sorvino), is the pillar of strength for her mother and three younger sisters.
Christine (Sean Young) is separated from her workaholic husband Paul (Jamey Sheridan), hurts for her daughter Laura who feels rejected by her father’s lack of attention and carries life-long guilt for an accident her mom had, that mentally affected her younger sister. Single-and-loving-it sister Denise (Dinah Manoff), seeks fulfillment in chasing a singing career and rejects a marriage proposal from boyfriend Lawrence (Mark Harmon) because she fears that commitment won’t bring her happiness. Dolores (Lily Knight) has been raised to believe she’s “normal” like everyone else, but can’t understand why her family won’t approve of her “dating” Armand (Doug Spinuzza), a family friend.
Aunt Splendora (Lee Grant), Aunt Loretta (Edith Fields), their husbands, the cousins and friends, learn that thorough life and even death, faith, hope and love really are the ties that bind family together.
The good: Bravo! A well-written slice-of-life drama about family with an extremely talented cast! This incredible story will touch your heart, make you laugh, and allow you to shed a tear for the things that are dearest to us all in life, including family! Anne De Salvo’s from-the-heart script and direction exceeds anything you’ve recently seen. She examines the everyday events of this close-knit, Italian-American family in Philadelphia, from a woman’s point of view. She taps into the interpersonal relationships between husband and wife, mother and daughter and the four sisters, exploring the sacrifices, faith, hope, love, dreams, humor and tragedies that touch each of our lives.
The simple little nuances of family, realistic relationship issues, touching father/daughter scenes and sister-banter, are delightfully rewarding and made me realize how rarely we see those elements in movies today. I appreciate the way the family’s strong Catholic faith is portrayed as a believable and relevant part of their lives, not a crutch or a joke. Their everyday belief in prayer and dependency on the saints to “get them through” the good and the bad in life, was an important element to the story. The cast work exceptionally well together and each embraced the heart of the story (Ruehl, Sorvino,Young and Leachmen are the consummate professionals) with accolades to Knight for her sensitive portrayal. As an older sister of four girls (I love the line “nobody loves you like a sister!”), mother of three, and someone who has lived through a few of the issues this story deals with, I applaud De Salvo and recommend every adult see this movie! It made me laugh, cry and want to call my family. I love this movie!
The not-so-good: Since this is a family drama about real issues, with real people, in real life, there are a few scenes that may require a parent’s explanation to younger children or be a little too adult in nature for kids under 12. For example, there are scenes concerning a mentally challenged girl and boy wanting to date (they go to the movies and kiss and touch each other); a funeral with an open casket; an argument between a divorcing couple over their daughter; a grieving woman smashing the statues in a church; discussions about losing loved ones; some mild language; and one scene that shows an unmarried couple lying on a bed talking. Although this is a well-made movie, technically it could have benefited from a bigger budget but there’s no way to improve on the story or well-rounded cast. This film is best for mature audiences who can appreciate a character-driven drama about life.