Big Night


There are an awful lot of films conceived, produced, and sometimes directed by actors in the independent world that turn out to be disappointing because of their shallowness, their vanity, and their use as a vehicle to showcase performance. That is why it‘s so special to encounter Stanley Tucci’s and Campbell Scott‘s Big Night and be just blown away by its uniqueness. Its realism and truths, its dialogue and characters, and its subtle, careful storytelling and restrained performances are all impeccable and distinctive.

Wonderfully conceived and enacted, Big Night is a period piece set in 1950s America which focuses on two brothers, Italian immigrants Primo and Secondo Pilaggi, who operate a small, failing restaurant. Primo is the chef. He’s an absolute perfectionist, driven mad by the unsophisticated coarseness of his American clientele: “pasta and risotto!!!” Secondo, on the other hand, is caught up in the American dream, driven to succeed, determined to Americanize the restaurant to make it a success. When faced with impending doom, Secondo arranges through Pascal, the owner of a big, flashy, popular restaurant down the street, to have one “big night,” a special dinner for Louis Prima, the jazz great, which could result in the notoriety their establishment needs to survive. Primo begins to prepare the most incredible feast of his career, but can he bring it off?

Minnie Driver, Isabella Rossellini, and Ian Holm are among those who join Primo (Tony Shalhoub) and Secondo (Stanley Tucci) in this filmic feast for the senses. With taste and sensibilities that are as perfectionistic as those of their characters, Scott and Tucci have created an exceptionally inspired work. Slowly simmered, but with a finale that is superbly executed, Big Night is a film which explores the American dream, the contradictions of success, and the difficulties of relationships and family. It is a film whose indulgences, such as they are, construct real meaning and emotion and whose quiet style underscores its very real substance and impact.

— Geoffrey Gilmore

Screening Details

Sundance Film Festival Awards

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