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Early on in “Feast of the Seven Fishes,” two characters debate the optimal way to decorate a house for Christmas. One favors an “understated” approach, with white lights and little more; the other argues that the holidays are no time for subtlety, advocating green, red and gold sparkle as far as the semi-blinded eye can see. Robert Tinnell’s cheery seasonal comedy plants its tinsel-encrusted flag firmly in the latter camp, warmly embracing corn and cliché as par for the festive course, and enlivening its familiar trappings with a specific Italian-American accent. Tangling various light familial and romantic exchanges over the course of one Christmas Eve in a snow-licked Rust Belt town, this easily digestible “Feast” is unlikely to join the holiday viewing canon, but the particularity of its focus on the eponymous, American-fried immigrant tradition is welcome: Any Christmas film that teaches us how to correctly soak baccala is more useful than most.
“Feast of the Seven Fishes” is the first feature in 19 years from West Virginia-based writer-director Tinnell, whose output as a graphic novelist is rather more prolific. Indeed, the film is adapted from one of his own comic strips, though only intermittently does the filmmaking playfully suggest such origins. A quickfire montage detailing the exact fishy composition of the feast in question — a seafood-based family banquet enjoyed the night before Christmas by most Italian-American families, kicked up a few notches from its more austere Southern Italian roots — is a rare formal flourish in an otherwise busy but homely affair.
Year - Absence - Cellphones - Period - Proceedings
The year is 1983, though notwithstanding the absence of cellphones, the period doesn’t feel especially vital to proceedings. This is evidently a direct nostalgia exercise for the filmmaker, whose personal relationship to his locale — a worn, utilitarian coal-mining community on the Monongahela River — is palpable. Peeling...
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