The Parlazzis would like to invite you to a big family dinner.
Hope you like resentment. It’s the main course – and getting served up with sides of greed, anger, lust and depression.
That’s the set up to the comic melodrama Inheritance, Italian Style which reunites a big, squabbling clan of Sicilians to divvy up some family treasures. That the parents are still alive is only a minor complication.
But as the five grown daughters argue over priceless artworks and gaudy chandeliers, other tensions bubble to the surface. And as the old resentments mount, husbands start sneaking into other bedrooms, turning in laws into outlaws.
Novice filmmaker Doug Bremner clearly wants to evoke old-style comedy imports like Marriage, Italian Style but unfortunately he can’t come close to that sunny sophistication and wicked wit. Flatfooted and ham-handed, his film stumbles when it needs to waltz.
Some of that may be due to his own, over-ambitious aims. Bremner’s clearly dreamed big here, but the reality of his budget, and his cast, can’t keep pace with his fantasy.
For example, the film’s attempt to use stock footage to pass off rural Georgia as the island of Sicily doesn’t always convince. Other cheap compromises stick out (a hospital room’s medical equipment consists of an old computer monitor; a police officer’s uniform is indicated by a red stripe added to a pair of black trousers.)
The crowded cast of overly colorful characters quickly gets dizzying, too. Why can’t the story be set here, among Italian-Americans? Why can’t it be three sisters instead of five? Reining in his ideas might have helped a bit. Even a veteran director would have trouble keeping all these balls in the air.
As you’d expect with such a broad ensemble, the skill levels are all over the place. As three of the sisters, Caroline Granger, Maggie Henry and Zoe Myers are pleasantly professional; as one of the straying husbands, Bill Neenan is a small breath of fresh air amid a lot of overheated farce. They provide some bright spots here.
But the rest of the cast is often woeful, decked out in glue-on beards and even faker accents. (At times, the matriarch sounds more Swedish than Sicilian). And the nudge-in-the-ribs “comical” score makes things more obvious without making them funnier, as it stubbornly keeps telling us when to laugh.
A marital farce like this needs to be light and bubbly, like a tall cool glass of prosecco. Instead, Inheritance, Italian Style feels like the hangover that comes after.