Joe Fine (Chazz Palminteri; The Usual Suspects) is willing to do whatever it takes to keep his business afloat. In that spirit, he moves his wife (Andie MacDowell), and two daughters (Jodelle Ferland and Rainey Qualley) to Louisiana so his business can take advantage of new southern tax credit legislation being proposed to the Senate. In the meantime, he enjoys buying his family expensive gifts and taking them out for extravagant nights on the town to help assure them that nothing is wrong. However, while he works to convince his family that they are financially sound, they become more aware than ever of Joe’s deep psychological problems, as he is prone to bouts of rage over the smallest things.
Mighty Fine is a good movie. It’s not a great one, or even a particularly memorable or original one, but it’s good for what it is. I’m a big fan of Chazz Palminteri from his other work, and think he does an expert job of crafting the character of Joe Fine. The complicated psyche brought to life on screen is really interesting to watch, and even though we don’t get to see the biggest changes in his character because they happen after the events of the movie and are only quickly mentioned by the narrator, it’s still great to see the subtleties in Palminteri’s performance. This is also a really good role for Andie MacDowell, who plays a Polish Jew who hid from the Nazis as a young girl and now finds herself trying to please everybody, and more importantly unable to stand up to her husband when he loses it.
The one character I was sure I was going to hate was Maddie (Rainey Qualley), who is the Fines’ teenage daughter. She begins the film with every teenage girl cliché you can imagine. She’s inexplicably short-tempered, resisting her father at every turn, and can’t help but see the worst in every situation. However, as the film plays out and you see that her less desirable character traits tend to come from her father’s psychological issues, and her finding it harder and harder to maintain an optimism that he’ll ever get better. Maddie does have angsty melodramatic moments throughout the film that are cringe-worthy in terms of circumstance and performance, but overall Qualley does a good job of making the character unique. Maddie’s younger sister Natalie (Jodelle Ferland) on the other hand is definitely the weakest character here. This does not appear to be a problem with the performance, but rather simply a lack of character development in the script. Natalie is also the film’s narrator, but as an adult looking back on this chunk of her life. Natalie is an aspiring poet with crippling stage fright, and that’s about it. She doesn’t have much of a character beyond that, and when she’s interacting with her family (which is most of the film), she seems to just exist and give the other characters someone to say lines to.
Available on DVD from Lionsgate Home Entertainment on May 7.