Do you remember My Big Gay Italian Wedding? The 2003 play that shared an off-Broadway theater with Naked Boys Singing? The one that was revived in 2010 and starred The Amazing Race’s Reichen Lehmkuhl (remember huh?) and, eventually, a rotating cast of Real Housewives, then soap stars, then drag queens?
Well, fugheddaboutit! We’re here to talk about the new film, which is a completely different animal.
My Big Gay Italian Wedding is the American-market name given to an Italian romantic comedy originally titled Puoi Baciare Lo Sposo (You May Kiss the Groom). The film is in Italian (with English subtitles), so naturally the action opens in… Berlin, where we meet Antonio (Cristiano Caccamo), a handsome, twenty-something Italian actor.
And we feel like we really are meeting Antonio since the opening scene is shot POV-style as Antonio, in voiceover, reminisces about his future boyfriend sweetly hitting on him at a café. The montage continues as Antonio recalls their first date (and kiss); visits to the beach, the market, and a park with friends; waking up in bed together; having a heated argument in, and outside of, a car; blowing out the candles on a birthday cake; and sampling red sauce from a wooden spoon. All the while, we view the couple’s romance and life together through the eyes of Antonio’s lover.
By the time the camera finally spins around, almost three minutes into the film, and we finally meet Antonio’s adorable “Neapolitan oaf,” the bearish bartender Paolo (Salvatore Esposito), in the kitchen of the Berlin apartment they share, the love between the two has been well established.
Which is good, since Antonio has just popped the question.
Paolo is an enthusiastic yes. But he wants to meet Antonio’s parents before the wedding. Conveniently, Antonio is leaving the next day to visit his parents in Italy for Easter. Inconveniently, he has yet to come out to his family. And perhaps his reluctance is justified: Paolo’s mother, in Naples, hasn’t spoken to her son since he came out to her three years prior. After some resistance, Antonio agrees to let Paolo join him for the family holiday.
Also along for the ride is Benedetta (Diana Del Bufalo), the couple’s mildly wacky chestnut-haired roommate — and landlord — also Italian. Benedetta has money: “I’m rich, and I don’t need to work.” She enjoys shopping and, apparently, company because, despite her wealth, when we meet Bene, she’s interviewing a prospective flatmate she found online.
Donato (Dino Abbrescia) is a white-haired, mustachioed bus driver (readers of a certain age may find Donato’s overall look very Captain Kangaroo), who’s left Italy because he needs time to sort things out after his wife and daughter caught him cross-dressing. Although Donato is flying solo, he doesn’t want to be left alone in the Berlin apartment, so he persuades Antonio to let him join the roommates on their Italian odyssey.
Antonio hails from Civita di Bagnoregio, a tiny town tucked inside the walls of a rocky fortress perched high on a volcanic outcropping in the Tiber River valley. His father, Roberto (Diego Abatantuono, a tan version of Orson Welles in those late ’70s ads for Paul Masson wine), is Civita’s mayor and is not pleased when Antonio announces that he and Paolo love each other and are getting married. His mother, Anna (Monica Guerritore, a no-nonsense Italian Annette Bening), tells the couple she is happy for them.
But Mama also has a few conditions that must be met if the prospective grooms want her blessing: They’ve got to hire (real-life) reality-TV wedding planner Enzo Miccio; Paolo’s mother must attend; the ceremony will be held in Civita; and… Roberto must officiate.
And you thought coming out was going to be the only challenge Antonio would face on the way to a happy ending!
No, in the space of a single speech at breakfast, Mama manages to unload an entre arsenal of plot complications into the second act. Just add one stalkerish ex-girlfriend, and away we go!
The ensuing hijinks, including a detour to Naples, an oracular goat, and a spare mother at the wedding, are charming and good fun. Occasionally, the farce falls flat (a brief, unlikely plot twist involving Benedetta and Donato comes to mind). And the story, by director Alessandro Genovesi, would have benefited from the addition of a little exposition — and redemption! — between the story’s surprisingly villainous nadir and it’s Mamma Mia!-esque finale. But the production design is lush; the cinematography, vibrant; the performances, strong; and the characters surprisingly relatable.
It’s no wonder My Big Gay Italian Wedding’s a hit in Italy: Released last month, the film racked up $2.2 million in ticket sales in its first two weeks alone. Next stop? South Florida, for its international premiere. Or you can catch it in theaters later this year.
My Big Gay Italian Wedding opens the 20th Miami edition of the OUTshine Film Festival on Friday, April 20. The screening — the Italian film’s international premiere — includes a swell after-party (Tito’s Vodka open bar and nibbly bits, ladies!), both held at the Scottish Rite Temple (471 NW 3rd St, Miami). Advance tix ($55 members/$65 guests): outshinefilm.com.
OUTshine’s Miami festival runs from April 20-29. (Its Fort Lauderdale edition returns in October.) Pick up a copy of Hotspots next week for full coverage of the jam-packed Miami slate of events and screenings.