Something we haven’t written about in a while is expectations and film going. It boils down to this, keep your expectations low and you won’t be disappointed…at least not too bad. This was a difficult lesson to learn. Not to beat a dead Sully but I’m still shaking my head there. What made me think that would be God’s gift to celluloid. Meanwhile I had zero expectations of Free Solo. I was even wondering what we were doing there at first. I think we may have been the only people in the theater. And that film went on to blow everyone’s mind and win the Best Documentary Academy Award. So there.
Another thing about expectations is that we, LnD, are opposed to trailers. We actually have our routine timed in such a way that we can saunter into the cinema —amuse the managers, grind the ticket counter person, goof around with the concession staff— and mosey on into the movie as the opening frames start flashing.
Which brings me to Somewhere in Queens. Frankly, I wasn’t expecting much. Ray Romano was, maybe still is, a household name. He had a hit TV show for 9 seasons, 210 episodes from 1996 to 2005. Of course, I have never seen it. I may have watched it once. Maybe twice. I know his dad was grumpy and his brother was tall. The point is, I didn’t have any Ray Romano baggage going into this film. When D leaned over to say at the beginning of the film, “Is this a Ray Romano is sad movie?” I just shrugged. I am supposing that Ray Romano wasn’t sad on his TV show. Romano, co-wrote, produced, directs and stars in Somewhere in Queens. His character isn’t sad. He’s complicated. He’s like a weathered ship in a storm. A guy who needs a shave so badly, but when will he find the time? His wife is a cancer survivor who hasn’t psychologically overcome the disease. His son, who probably should have been diagnosed with something by now, is reclusive, introverted. Romano works for an indifferent father and insensitive brother. He does have a few good buddies he works with. There is at least that. But it’s shaky. Everything is slightly shaky for this Ray Romano character. He lives vicariously through the exploits of his son on the high school basketball court. And from here the twists and turns of the narrative and great references to Rocky begin. It turns out that Rocky Balboa is Romano’s philosophical standard-bearer.
There are a lot of laugh out loud moments in this film. There are also a lot of awkward, cringy by design moments. Something was off though. The pacing? I’m not sure. Somewhere in Queens doesn’t knock you off your feet like say, CODA. It’s almost too relatable for that. There is nothing special and yet everything is special about this family. It’s like a mirror of a film. There won’t be shootouts, or car crashes, or witticisms. Just moments…that will make you laugh, or hurt…that you can relate to. It actually blew away my expectations in that it told a very solid story, with strong performances and charming vignettes along the way.
Some people might get offended and say the film plays on stereotypes of Italian-American families. But at least from my own experience in a big Italian-American family, it’s pretty spot on. Apologies all around. But that’s what the dinner table is like. Please deal with it. I found it to be authentic in its stereotyping and not exploitive. How about that? There are reasons that stereotypes exist. And that was actually my biggest fear. I did break the rule, don’t watch the trailers! And watched the trailer to About My Father. That film stars De Niro and Maniscalco and it is truly a cringeworthy trailer. All the stereotypes there seem completely forced. Like, the film is a vehicle to exploit stereotypes, that’s why it exists. The laughs will be cheap and on the surface. That’s the opposite of what’s going on here. Maniscalco actually plays Ray Romano’s brother in Somewhere in Queens. Unlike his over the top, physical standup, which I enjoy, his performance was measured and poignant. He stayed true to his character and even seemed to have a little arc at the very end of the film.
So, as someone who was actually born in Flushing, Queens. Home of the Amazin’ Mets of 1969. I say Somewhere in Queens is a worthwhile, earnest exploration of the things that scare us and the ways we can face them.