Two Family House

Two Family House (2000)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Americana, Family Drama  |   Release Date - Oct 6, 2000 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 104 min.  |   Countries - United States  |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Elbert Ventura

A movie of disarming sweetness, Raymond De Felitta's Two Family House is as accomplished as it is unassuming. A period piece set in 1950s Staten Island, the movie tells the story of Buddy (Michael Rispoli), a working-class family man whose kindness -- he secretly subsidizes an adulterous Irish woman (Kelly McDonald) who has just given birth to a dark-skinned baby -- leads to pariah status in his insular Italian-American neighborhood. Casually humanistic, the movie's depiction of an ethnic community has the warm finish of fondly remembered lore. For all its seemingly fuzzy nostalgia, Two Family House serves as a corrective to idealized representations of the 1950s as a simpler (and hence, better) time. Underlying the movie's action is the neighborhood's blithe racism, which when it erupts casually in everyday banter is genuinely jarring. Made with evident affection, Two Family House makes a couple of lapses into preciousness -- a sequence depicting the narrator's first memories as an infant comes to mind -- and sometimes verges on caricature. Considering the number of opportunities the story presents for such missteps, however, the movie is impressively free of bathos and cynicism. With its generosity and unforced moralizing, Two Family House seems oddly anachronistic: a modest, humane movie about nothing less than the values we choose to live by.