John Turturro's impressive directing debut, MAC, shows that he has the talent to work on both sides of the camera. Although the story drags on a little too long and sometimes lapses into sentimentality, the end result is consistently engrossing and often enlightening.
Mac Vitelli (John Turturro) is the eldest brother in a close knit Queens, New York family. His brothers Vico (Michael Badalucco) and Bruno (Carl Capotorto) look to him for guidance; they all three live at home with their mother and are learning to adjust to life since their father (Joe Paparone)
died. Mac and Vico are employed by a construction company headed by Polowski (Olek Krupa), a first generation Polish immigrant who likes to cut corners on his work sites. Mac insists on building the way his father taught him--with top quality work--so Mac and his boss are constantly at odds over
their fundamental differences.
Mac meets Alice (Katherine Borowitz), a young woman who lives across the street from the work site. They begin dating and fall in love over the next few months. Mac convinces aspiring artist Bruno and Vico that the family should go into business for themselves. With a loan from Alice, they
finally purchase a tract of land on Long Island which is less than desirable, but Mac insists that people will still buy homes there if they are well made. The brothers begin building in earnest and hire most of Polowski's old laborers including Nat (John Amos). As construction progresses, the
relationship between the brothers begins to develop strains, as Mac is now the boss, and finds himself having to keep the others in line. Things look even more grim when Nat falls off a roof and ends up in the hospital with serious injuries.
Mac and Alice marry as the first of four homes is finished. All the homes are finally completed, but the brothers find no buyers, and fight when Bruno and Vico accuse Mac of forcing them to buy undesirable land. But it transpires that it's not the location that is scaring buyers away, but
Polowski. Mac beats him up, and then he and Alice begin a vigorous campaign to sell the homes, eventually succeeding, although Bruno and Vico decide they want out of the business anyway. Mac finds a new, desirable, site and plans more construction, but is crushed when the brothers tell him of
their decision. A few years later, Mac brings his own child to the site of the first home he built, and like his father before him explains to the boy about quality work and character.
MAC is most definitely a project from the heart. Turturro not only pays respectful homage to his own father but to an entire generation of working class people. That sense of pride and tradition shines through in the film. He also manages to capture the emergence of a new generation--the era of
professionals taking over from laborers, and the strident competition amongst various ethnic groups competing for their share of the American dream. The scenes of Italian family life ring true throughout, but the film excels during the metaphorical comparisons between the building of quality homes
with a man's character. Turturro knows the turf well, and one assumes many of these stories probably came directly from his father.
The production values are high, with the cinematography being particularly effective, managing to make tract housing somehow look majestic. The acting is uniformly impressive, with an ensemble feel to it: Turturro developed many scenes with actor friends for years before making the film. Playing
Mac himself, he is obviously close to the character, and his performance deserves special attention for its understated brilliance. With uncommon looks and great energy, Turturro's wife Borowitz, as Alice, is a standout, keeping up with Turturro at every turn.
The film suffers from some structural weaknesses, however, particularly in its writing. The story moves along credibly until the brothers go their separate ways, when the carefully established togetherness and sense of family is rather too swiftly destroyed. The impetus behind Bruno and Vico's
leaving is not sufficiently developed to seem genuine. While most of the dialogue is sharp and revealing, the film miscalculates when it tries to inject some comic irreverence into the proceedings, usually through the Vico character. The real humor comes at unlikely turns, most notably during an
extended down-in-the-dirt brawl between Mac and Polowski.
MAC is a genuinely likable story which aims for the high ground and often lands there. Turturro astutely surrounded himself with quality people, on both the technical and artistic sides, and the results are a pleasure to watch. While the film is occasionally uneven, there is ample evidence that
MAC has something worthwhile to say about the value of good work, and its place in American society. (Profanity, nudity, sexual situations.)
Cast & Details See all »
- Released: 1993
- Rating: R
- Review: John Turturro's impressive directing debut, MAC, shows that he has the talent to work on both sides of the camera. Although the story drags on a little too long and sometimes lapses into sentimentality, the end result is consistently engrossing and often e… (more)