Wednesday, November 24, 2010

‘Household Saints’ Revisited Today

The Italian Tribune, 11.24.10

Every once in a while we watch a movie from years ago that we like to recommend to our readers as a film worth watching again or viewing for the first time. We recently honored the actor Vincent D’Onofrio, one of the main characters in this film, for his fine body of works and think you would also enjoy his performance in this film, still pertinent to our lives today and well worth viewing.

The film Household Saints was first released in 1993 and stars Tracy Ullman, Vincent D’Onofrio and Lili Taylor. The beginning for this film about miracles takes place at a pinochle game, when one of the players, Joseph Santangelo, in love with the daughter of a fellow player, raises the stakes of the game higher and higher. He ultimately asks for the right to marry the daughter, Catherine. His friend Lino agrees and after losing the game he goes home and orders his daughter to fix a nice dinner because Joseph and his family are coming to dinner. He tells her to make a nice meal to impress Joseph adding that it should be good enough for a man to want to marry her. She replies, “Nobody gets married for the food,” perhaps admitting she is not such a great cook.

Joseph (Vincent D’Onofrio) and his family do come for dinner and he and Catherine (Tracy Ullman) eventually get married. Of course, as happens in most marriages, they gradually change.

Their initial years are a constant trial as they live with Joseph’s shrill and hateful mother. When Catherine becomes pregnant her mother-in-law fills her head with horrifying old wives’ tales- superstitions of all the terrible things that can lead to miscarriages or the birth of monsters. When Mrs. Santangelo finally dies Catherine can finally bloom like a new spring flower and to celebrate this new freedom she paints their dank and dreary apartment in bright pastels and buys new Tupperware.

Their baby is a girl, Teresa (Lili Taylor), who becomes a serious and quiet young lady who grows up a very devout Catholic. She is very attracted to the uncompromising dogma of the church which challenges her to become a saint. She is completely devoted to her namesake, St. Teresa, known as the Little Flower of Jesus. While her parents have become modernized she is a throwback to her grandmother. When she announces her wish to enter a convent her father explodes.

Of course she doesn’t defy her parents and eventually goes off to college, it’s the early 70s and change is in the air. Most students are on the floor in sit-ins, not prayer. Teresa meets a young man who already has his life mapped out. He wants to get his law degree, get married, have children, buy a town house on the Upper East Side and get membership in all the clubs that turn their nose up at the Italians. Teresa is attracted to him but ultimately must decide what she truly wants for herself. Will she follow the path of worshiping these “false gods” or follow a plan of her own.

Not just a story of three generations of Italian Americans in the latter half of the twentieth century, the director Nancy Savoca explores a larger subject than just these women’s lives. She wants to show how, in only three generations, an Italian family that was comfortable with becoming an “American” family now has a daughter who feels threatened by this modernism. She also explores the possibilities of sainthood in a very secular world.

This is a warm jewel of a movie that even today will evoke memories in all of us as it brings to mind our own personal family dynamics. The film was on the “Best Films” list of over 20 national critics and was nominated for a Spirit Award for Best Screenplay. It is available on Amazon and Netflix if you can’t find it in your local video store. If you haven’t seen Household Saints take some time to rent and watch this film and if you have seen it on its first release you would surely enjoy watching it again!



SnarkAngel said...

Couldn't agree more with this review. Household Saints is an interesting and lovely film.

Muriel said...

This is a hard film to find. I joined Netflix a couple yrs ago because they had it on their movie list, but it was never actually available. I'll give Amazon a try. I haven't seen it but would like to.

[Browse Amazon]


List of films in production.

"In Dubious Battle" [2016]

"In Dubious Battle" [2016]
An activist gets caught up in the labor movement for farm workers in California during the 1930s. Vincent....Al Anderson


A story about the early life of Tennessee Williams

Directed by James Franco
Vincent D'Onofrio, Jacob Loeb

"American Falls" - [TBA]

In a rural town in Southern Idaho, the Suzukis, a Japanese American family, run a small motel. One night they get a strange visitor who sports ‘city’ clothes who turns out to be the first African-American man that Toru Suzuki’s children have ever seen. Yoshiko takes it upon herself to solve the mystery about this man, especially when 2 police officers come knocking on their door.

Short film produced by Erika Hampson.
Vincent D'Onofrio as Detective Foster.

'Purgatory' [TBA]

'Purgatory' [TBA]
Tagline: In the Wild West a lot of blood was spilled... but it didn't go to waste. Vincent....Dallas Stoudenmire

"A Fall From Grace" [TBA]

Detective Michael Tabb knows the city of St. Louis inside and out. He has felt its true heart, as much as its dark underbelly: but he does not know who, in both the dark and light - is taking the lives of young girls.

Director: Jennifer Lynch
Producer/Writer ...Eric Wilkinson

Vincent D'Onofrio ....George Lawson (GRACE's father)
Tim Roth.......Detective Tabb

Filming in St Louis - TBA

"Supreme Ruler" [TBA]

A man campaigns to become the leader of the Buffalo lodge.

Vincent D'Onofrio as Hank Dory
Ron Livingston as Steve
Marcia Gay Harden as Nancy

"The Monster Next Door" [TBA]

"The Monster Next Door" - Comedy Horror

Executive Produced by Dennis Johnson, Melanie Mohlman Produced by Eric Wilkinson, David Michaels
Written by Jim Robbins
Directed by Jennifer Lynch

Cast: Vincent D'Onofrio, Bill Pullman, French Stewart, Bill Moseley

'Down & Dirty Pictures' - [in Production - Filming TBA]

'Down & Dirty Pictures' - [in Production - Filming TBA]
Vincent......Harvey Weinstein

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