Directed, written by Kevin Jordan. Camera (color), Dave Tumblety;, editor, Mako Kamitsuna; music, Craig Maher, production designer, Jesse Nemeth; costume designer, Laquitta Matthews; sound, Anton Gold; associate producers, Brian Jordan, Aimee Golden, Barry Ohannessian; casting, Phyllis Huffman. Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Contemporary World Cinema), Sept. 9, 2005. (Also in Hamptons Film Festival.) Running time: 90 MIN.
With: Danny Aiello, Jane Curtin, Daniel Sauli, Marisa Ryan, Ian Kahn, Heather Burns, Tom Mason.
Despite worthy contributions on both sides of the camera, "Brooklyn Lobster" comes across primarily as a showcase for Danny Aiello in a powerhouse performance as a Sheepshead Bay lobster wholesaler facing the loss of his long-suffering wife, his failing family business and his tradition-bound way of life. Character's multiple mid-life crises could make this genuinely engaging drama especially appealing to older viewers, provided second feature by writer-director Kevin Jordan ("Goat on Fire and Smiling Fish") can target auds beyond the traditional alt-cinema circuit If indie distrib Meadowbrook Pictures wants to net mainstream ticketbuyers before homevid release, savvy marketing is a must.
To his considerable credit, Aiello isn't afraid to be less than sympathetic, or worse, during key moments as Frank Girorgio, a bearish family patriarch who refuses to seek help from anyone, even family members. Years earlier, a local bank loaned Frank a hefty sum so he could add a restaurant to the lobster shop his family has operated for generations. But the bank has folded, and Frank now faces a public auction of his chronically cash-strapped business.
Prodigal son Michael (Daniel Sauli) reluctantly returns home to lend a hand. But Frank bristles when Michael tries to attract financial investment from the family of his beautiful fiancee (Heather Burns).
When Frank surmises that the fiancee's wheeler-dealer uncle (Tom Mason) is behind a pre-emptive bid for his business, he angrily confronts the uncle in pic's best scene, a suspenseful verbal clash that seems only a heartbeat away from physical violence.
Jane Curtin works hard to sustain a balance between wisecracking humor and resigned melancholy as Maureen, Frank's wife, who's finally ready to leave the moody husband from whom she's felt estranged for years. Sauli is winning as weft-meaning Michael, while Marisa Ryan (as Frank's supportive daughter) and Ian Kahn (as her ambitious husband) are standouts in less prominent roles.
Ultimately, however, Aiello dominates with equal measures of gruff bluster, pained confusion and not-so-quiet desperation. It's an impressively multifaceted performance that could generate quite a few shocks of recognition among pic's most likely aud.
Tech values are serviceable at best, but rough edges don't diminish pic's credibility. Jordan reportedly drew story from first-hand observations--his family operated a lobster shop in Sheepshead Bay for many years--which may explain why much of "Brooklyn Lobster" abounds in precise details rendered with documentary-style realism. Verisimilitude obviously impressed Martin Scorsese, who is allowing producers to use phrase "Martin Scorsese presents" in opening credits and promotional material.