A mild-mannered suburban mum unexpectedly inherits her late grandfather’s mafia empire in Italy. Guided by the firm’s trusted consigliere, she hilariously defies everyone’s expectations as she finds herself stuck in the middle of a deadly mob war.

Editing: Waldemar Centeno
Alex Heffes

Cast: Toni Collette, Monica Bellucci, Sophia Nomvete, Alessandro Bressanello, Giulio Corso, Rob Huebel, Eduardo Scarpetta, Francesco Mastroianni, Alfonso Perugini

Directors: Catherine Hardwicke
Writers: Amanda Sthers, J. Michael Feldman, Debbie Jhoon
Cinematography: Patrick Murguia

Mafia Mamma is a quirky combination of Eat, Pray, Love and Under the Tuscan Sun. But the difference between those films and Mafia Mamma is a stiletto to the crotch. 

Kristen (Toni Collette) is a smothering mother and wife. Filling every moment of her day, either working or looking after her son, Domenick (Tommy Rodger) and her husband, Paul (Tim Daish). With her focus on everyone but herself, she didn’t notice Paul had been cheating on her. But in a twist of fate, sadly, Kristen’s grandfather has passed away, and she must head to Italy for the funeral.

While it couldn’t have come at a better time, Kristen is ready to relax, sightsee and have a summer romance. It doesn’t take long until she meets Rudy (Giulio Corso), who literally sweeps her off her feet. Eating gelato along the Tiber River or indulging in fresh pasta made by Rudy’s Aunt, Kristen quickly forgets her worries back home.

All romance aside, the passing of Kristen’s Grandfather, Don Giuseppe Balbano (Alessandro Bressanello), has left her the wine-making business — a failing business at that. But with determination, Kristen turns the wine business into a profitable hustle. It’s only through doing that she realises the Balbano family aren’t in the wine-making industry. They are the Italian Mafia. As head of the family business, Kristen must learn the Mafia ways with the help of Bianca (Monica Bellucci), the Balbano’s advisor. But with a turf war looming over Kristen’s head, she must use her charm and knowledge to maintain the family name. 

Mafia Mamma is absolute cheese that will give you some real belly laughs. It feels like the comedy style of the early 2000s, silly. And for the most part, the silly scenarios work. But all the parts in between fall flat and drag out the movie. This would have been much more enjoyable if they just kept punching out the silly comedy all the way through.

As mentioned, there are some similarities to the classic Eat, Pray, Love which is referenced in the film. And then there’s Under the Tuscan Sun. These films show a woman looking for purpose and direction and, as the films go on, become these strong independent women. But what Mafia Mamma does is add some hilarious, albeit gruesome, murders one would expect from a Mafia Mamma.

Toni Collette (The Sixth Sense, Hereditary, About a Boy) leads the cast as Kristen. Collette has taken a break from her otherwise heavy roles with this choice, and you can see she is having an absolute blast with this character. Being silly and over the top is about as far as Collette pushes herself with this role. But there is a fine line between funny and annoying. 

However, one of this film’s great features is Italy, from the beautiful countryside to the stunning cobblestone roads and epic mansions. Director Catherine Hardwicke manages to paint a lovely summer holiday in the warm sunny shots. You very much feel part of the journey with Kirsten.

The film does come with some key messages, which are certainly preserved. The entire film is about empowering women. In Kristen’s case, it starts as a life lesson that she should believe in herself and consider her needs above others. This is especially true when her son takes her for granted, and her husband cheats on her. Which leads to the fact any woman can do a man’s job, if not better. This is evident in the final scenes when after everything Kristen has gone through, people are visiting her to kiss her ring as thanks. 

Mafia Mamma certainly comes with some laughs. But as they’re few far between, the scenes between do make the film drag out. The cheese factor smothers a great deal of the film, which treads a fine line from an eye roll to a laugh. But when you get a belly laugh, it reminds you that big-screen comedy is still alive.