Review by Sean Boelman
Ray Romano’s directorial debut Somewhere in Queens debuted at last year’s Tribeca Film Festival to a warm response, and is finally making its way to U.S. theaters. Romano’s film is as charming and funny as one would expect — although it does struggle at times with figuring out exactly what it wants to be.
The movie follows a father who resorts to unorthodox measures to ensure his son’s success, putting his family’s relationships with one another at risk in the process. It’s the type of movie that feels comfortable and warm, and yet you also don’t know exactly where it’s going, as it takes some unexpected (and not always effective) turns.
The thing that the film really struggles with is frequent tonal shifts. Although the movie always recovers itself, each time it switches tones or genres, it stumbles for a few scenes before regaining its stride. It has elements of a sports movie, a rom-com, a family drama, and a cringe comedy — and while there are sequences of each that work well, the connective tissue is a bit lacking.
One of the most surprising things about the film is how dark the humor gets at times. Sure, there are plenty of lighthearted jokes and culturally-specific gags about Italians living in New York, but the funniest moments of the movie come from the bouts of awkward laughing you’ll feel from some of the enormously uncomfortable situations in the film.
Something that is interesting is that, despite all but one of the characters (who is not the protagonist) being completely selfish individuals, the movie manages to make the viewer care about them. The character’s decisions make them go beyond “flawed but lovable,” yet — perhaps out of pity — the audience will still find them to be rather moving.
The whole film has a very sentimental feel to it. From the soundtrack that is filled with songs that were at the height of their popularity decades ago to the many scenes of a family eating dinner around a massive table, it’s clear that this Romano made this movie from a place of love. As such, it’s pretty hard to dislike it.
The film also boasts some genuinely great performances. Romano is very funny and endearing in the leading role — even if he is playing a character that feels like a version of himself. Laurie Metcalf has more than a few scenes in which she gets the opportunity to steal the show. The young duo, Jacob Ward and Sadie Stanley, are also quite charming.
Somewhere in Queens is a charming little directorial debut for Ray Romano. It’s funny, occasionally dark, and has a really strong ensemble, showing that Romano’s sensibilities as a comedian translate nicely to the director’s chair.
Somewhere in Queens hits theaters on April 21.