About My Father is fun, funny, and incredibly poignant about adult relationships with our parents.
Sebastian Maniscalco and Robert De Diro wonderfully explore and embrace the unique, yet universal, aspect of disliking our loving parents in the delightful family comedy About My Father. Sebastian, who essentially plays himself, is invited to his girlfriend’s family’s 4th of July trip at their estate. This is a huge step forward in their relationship, one he plans to continue by asking his girlfriend, Ellie (Leslie Bibb), to marry him. All he needs is to get his grandmother’s ring from his dad Salvo (Robert De Niro). However, Salvo refuses to give Sebastian his blessing, and the ring, until he meets Ellie’s family. So Ellie convinces Sebastian to bring him on the trip. Thus setting up a classic clashing of worlds and values that is as stressful as it is heartwarming.
About My Father at a glance, is a story about soon-to-be in-laws meeting. But on top of that, there are the dueling immigrant family stories, one that traces their roots to the Mayflower, and the wealth and opportunities of the families who were able to take full advantage of their elevated status. There are the more recent immigrants, who are devoutly devoted to the working culture; working when sick, not taking vacations, and making things rather than buying, are all badges of honor. These are the prime perspectives of the Collins and the Maniscalcos.
But on top of their inherited perspectives, there are the perspectives of the current generation. One that understands the hard work and sacrifice that went into giving him the opportunities, but is also ready to allow himself to enjoy the fruits of the labor. And the other, who understands the pride of standing on your own two feet, and the powerful sense of achievement when you truly take risks. That’s where Sebastian and Ellie are.
Both families are approaching everything from different perspectives, and within the families, they are dealing with changing perspectives. Which creates a wonderfully messy 4th of July weekend.
About My Father is by no means a heavy movie, despite the family drama. It has enough at stake that you feel for the characters in it, but it is still very light-hearted and fun. The film does a great job of using stereotypes without belittling anyone, unique approaches to cliches, and overall not being mean or offensive while still able to feel controversial and real. It stays very safe in its PG-13 rating, but it never feels like it holds the film back. It is also a snappy 90-minute story that flies by, perfectly leaving audiences wanting more.
Their Family, They’re Good People
Sebastian Maniscalco and Robert De Niro are both very much in their element in About My Father. Maniscalco is still in between performing his stand-up and comedy, but luckily playing himself kind of puts everything in his favor. De Niro also graciously leads and guides Maniscalco, which adds layers and depth to their relationship and chemistry. De Niro is in top comedic form and reminds the world there’s a reason so many of his comedies have sequels. These two are great together and truly make the film.
Though the Maniscalcos are undoubtedly the stars, the Collins Family came to play. Leslie Bibb as Ellie is wonderful. While most of the film she seems very supportive, happy, and carefree, she gets to turn it on a dime and deliver a wonderfully dramatic scene. It rounds out her character and helps bring her to the forefront, making her a subtle lead. She might not be featured as much on the posters of About My Father, but she will be remembered for the film as much as Maniscalcos and De Niro.
The rest of the Collins are caricatures. Tiiger Collins, portrayed by Kim Cattrall, is the obvious leader of the family, while David Rashe’s Bill Collins is the bankroll and face. Their characters may not have been given too much content, but Cattrall and Rasche deliver strong performances that do add depth and gravitas. But being uber-wealthy upper-class socialites, there is only so much that can be done. They are funny and likable and do not give off the Italian Get Out vibe that is joked about early in the film.
Anders Holm and Brett Dier as Lucky and Doug Collins are funny characters. Very much spoiled children who have stunted personalities. They’re funny characters and likable enough. However, the parts don’t seem to give them enough to make it their own. Holm is definitely underutilized, but he at least seems to be enjoying himself.
The Functional in Dysfunctional
Dysfunctional is definitely too strong a word to describe About My Father. While the film definitely kept the majority of the family quirks PG, it doesn’t shy away from exploring the strong emotions that come up when people are confronting previous values they no longer hold, and addressing the source from which it was originally learned. Basically, the movie doesn’t shy away from disregarding what was taught by a parent and talking to them about it. It takes a while to get there, but when it gets there, it is a truly beautiful moment.
As adults, parents often forget to recognize their kids have grown up. As adults, we tend to forget there’s no actual rulebook on how to be a parent. They did the best they could, and we’re lucky enough to be the people we are because of it. This isn’t to absolve them for the issues they gave us, or even justify us not being able to move on and grow, but to just accept everything without villainizing or attacking anyone. It’s a wonderfully poignant, inspiring, and idealistic capture of adults and their relationships with their parents.
So About My Father
About My Father is the perfect movie for adults to take their parents to. The film brilliantly connects to audiences universally by going very specific on a working-class Italian Immigrant family and a uber-wealthy, headstart from atrocities, family. These families come together and learn to love and eventually love to learn from each other. It’s a fun, funny, light-hearted romp that also has a wonderfully beautiful message of not having to like our parents, but how to really love each other in spite of the issues. It can be better, and together it will be. Also, it’s all efficiently told in 90 minutes.
For its surprisingly powerful message and good, clean fun, I give About My Father an 8/10.
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