United States, 1992
R (Profanity, Violence, Sexual Situations)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio:
John Turturro, Michael Badalucco, Carl Capotorto, Katherine Borowitz, Ellen Barkin
John Turturro and Brandon Cole
Richard Termini and Vin Tese
Samuel Goldwyn Company
In 1954 Queens, New York, three brothers -- Mac (John Turturro), Vico (Michael Badalucco), and Bruno (Carl Capotorto) -- after having a few bad experiences working for others, decide to band together and create their own construction business. Their first major project, building four houses, requires such devotion and painstaking effort that it pushes their close relationship to the breaking point.
Credit should go to John Turturro for exploring a craft -- carpentry and house building -- that is not often seen in films. The best parts of the movie depict the various stages of starting a new business and constructing the houses. Unfortunately, the brothers' relationship is not evolved with equal skill. At times, Turturro handles character interaction well, but he is inconsistent. Too often, he goes for melodrama and directs with a heavy hand. It doesn't take the audience long to understand the tensions coursing under the surface, but Turturro insists on repeatedly hammering home the point.
Perhaps I would have felt differently had I gotten the impression of real affection between the brothers. However, although it's apparent that the Vitellis are a close-knit bunch, there are few demonstrations of brotherly love. My problems with the disintegration of the family are partially grounded in an inability to fully accept what Turturro takes for granted.
There is no doubt that Mac is a labor of love. The film took twelve years to reach its final form, and Turturro was involved every step of the way. Mac is dedicated to (and loosely based on) the life of Turturro's father, a first generation Italian American carpenter. The writer/director/actor has put his heart into this movie. His on-screen performance is inspired. Despite going over-the-top on a couple of occasions, he infuses the film with energy. His explosive acting contrasts starkly, and often effectively, with the gray, rainy setting. In fact, Mac has a visual appeal that isn't just on display in its leaden skies and driving storms. Richly-detailed images abound, such as during the opening credits, when booted feet stalk through mud as concrete is efficiently smoothed over.
At its heart, Mac is about integrity and taking pride in one's work. As the title character proclaims, "You know what I think happiness is? To love your job... If you hate your work, you hate your life." The specific focus of this film may be on an Italian American family of carpenters, but the message is universal. As a result, even though Mac is flawed, it still has significantly more power and appeal than an episode of This Old House.