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Toni Collette Takes on the Mafia


Bleecker Street release MAFIA MAMMA in theaters nationwide on April 14, 2023

Toni Collette in MAFIA MAMMA. Courtesy of Bleecker Street

Reviewed by Joy Parris: Director Catherine Hardwicke gives audiences ‘Mafia Mamma’ a comedic crime thriller starring Toni Collette and Monica Bellucci, this film takes audiences on a funny outrageous journey into the world of organized crime and family loyalty.

The story revolves around Kristin(Toni Collette), an insecure, kind, hard-working Mom in a company that doesn’t seem to appreciate her talent. Kristin is bereft when her son(played by Tommy Rodger) goes off to college making her an empty nester. And things get worse when she walks in on her wanna-be Musician husband (played by Tim Daish)with another woman she has had enough. She knows it’s time for a change and is ready for a new life.

Monica Bellucci in MAFIA MAMMA. Courtesy of Bleecker Street 

The new life comes as a surprise when she gets a call from Bianca(Monica Bellucci) telling her she must come immediately to Rome for her grandfather’s funeral. With visions of the movie Eat, Pray, Love in her head Kristin is excited to go and enjoy the Italian experience. Arriving in Rome and the country of her birth we can feel her excitement for this new chapter. But her Italian fantasy is blown to pieces when she is told her Grandfather has left her the family business and she is now the Boss of the Balbano Family.

The movie opens with dead bodies splayed out in a warehouse, the camera pans to Monica as she steps over the bodies. She kneels beside the body of Don Giuseppe Balbano(played by Alessandro Bressanello) and declares “This means war,” as she spits on the blood-stained cobblestone be warned you will see a lot of spitting in the film. When Bianca calls Kristen with the news to come to Italy, she immediately tells her it’s not possible because she can’t jeopardize her job. But when she finds her husband downstairs in an egregious position with the guidance counselor it’s all too much. As the young woman is hurried out the door, she tells Kristin, “I just want you to know I’m a feminist…and I support your right to be angry.” Bianca’s offer might not be a such bad idea after all. Toni Collete and Monica Bellucci do an excellent job playing their respective roles. Toni, the reluctant, clueless granddaughter thrown into the world of rival families and revenge killings. And Monica, her anchor, her mentor helps her navigate the negotiations between families.

Arriving at the airport she meets a handsome Italian man Lorenzo( Giulio Corso) and Kristen’s fantasy of having an Italian love affair is evident. She is so enamored by him, she almost forgets about the funeral. Visions of an Italian lover and stomping grapes don’t matter when things take a deadly turn at service. Kristen wants to leave but Monica convinces her to stay. She stays and gets closer to Lorenzo, as the romance blossoms he wants to know about her, and of course, that can’t happen. But becoming The Boss won’t be easy when a family member fights for power and puts her life at risk. Her best friend Jenny(played by Sophia Nomvete) full of spunk also convinced Kristen to take the trip come to Italy to help save her from the clutches of the law.

Mafia Mamma is so much more than bloody murders and rival families. It’s about a woman finding her worth in unusual circumstances. When her life was all about pleasing others, the joy of finding her value was fun to watch. Bellucci’s character comes across with silent strength giving Kristen just the right amount of machismo needed to become the Boss. The combination of these two actresses makes ‘Mafia Mama’ a fun film to enjoy. The additional cast members complimented the film, each delivering performances that rounded out the film, making it so entertaining.

Director Catherine Hardwicke and star Toni Collette on the set of MAFIA MAMMA. Courtesy of Bleecker Street.

“I was blown away by the originality of the script,” says Collette. “It made me laugh, it was extremely tight and had a subtle feminist punch that was in no way dogmatic — perfectly balanced yet tonally unusual and exciting. I was, and am, flattered and thankful that Amanda would bring it to me in this way.”

From left, stars Toni Collette, Monica Bellucci, Eduardo Scarpetta, director Catherine Hardwicke, and star Tommy Rodger on the set of MAFIA MAMMA. Courtesy of Bleecker Street.”

Director Catherine Hardwicke says: Toni, Catherine, Monica, and I are all women who are not 20 anymore and have experienced a lot in our lives and our careers,” says producer AMANDA STHERS, who created the original story for MAFIA MAMMA. “Even while being successful, we can identify with women who become strong because they had no choice. In the eyes of their husbands, women like Kristin are perhaps not young anymore, they have to let their children go their own way — they have to let go of a lot of things. That’s one reason why MAFIA MAMMA is universal. Any woman, no matter her level of success, has had these feelings.”

In conclusion, “Mafia Mamma” is a funny, crime thriller with wonderful performances from Toni Collette, Monica Bellucci, and the entire cast. Catherine Hardwicke’s direction, along with the film’s visual and emotional elements, make it a must-watch for fans who love comedy and Mafia films.

Starring Toni Collette, Monica Bellucci, Sophia Nomvete, Giulio Corso, Francesco Mastroianni, Alfonso Perugini, Eduardo Scarpetta, Tim Daish, Tommy Rodger

Directed by Catherine Hardwicke
Based on an Original Story by Amanda Sthers 
Screenplay by Michael J. Feldman & Debbie Jhoon
Produced by Amanda Sthers, Toni Collette, Christopher Simon

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