Used People

Shirley MacLaine plays a Jewish widow with two unhappy daughters (Kathy Bates and Marcia Gay Harden) who’s wooed by an Italian widower (Marcello Mastroianni) in Queens in 1969. This delightful, affecting, and offbeat comedy-drama (1992), written by actor Todd Graff (The Abyss, Five Corners), and adapted from his own off-Broadway work, The Grandma Plays, has been directed with verve and sensitivity by Beeban Kidron (Antonia & Jane), who did most of her previous work for British TV but seems perfectly at home here. The relatively uncommon virtue on full display here is a sense of character, which extends beyond the principals to the heroine’s mother (Jessica Tandy), the mother’s best friend (Sylvia Sidney), and a grandson (Matthew Branton), but the filmmakers are no slouches when it comes to period ambience either. This is a good deal less obvious and more original than Moonstruckone of many reasons I prefer it (1992). (JR)

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