Brothers' attempts to achieve dreams are explored in MacMac
Written and Directed by John Turturro.
Starring John Turturro, Michael Badalucco,
Carl Capotorto, and Katherine Borowitz.
By Douglas D. Keller
Mac is an intriguing, yet predictable film about a first-generation American's struggle to get ahead in the construction business, while holding on to his integrity. Turturro stars as Mac Vitelli, the oldest of three sons of a carpenter. The source of Mac's integrity is his father, whose mantra is "There are two ways to do something . . . my way and the right way. They are one in the same."
At the beginning of the film, Mac and his brothers Vico (Michael Badalucco) and Bruno (Carl Capotorto) are working for an unethical and much disliked contractor who doesn't share Mac's high standards or appreciation for hard work. Mac complies with the contractor's cost-cutting and shoddy craftsmanship only to save his job and that of his brothers. At last Mac can no longer cut corners, and with the help of his brothers and financial support of his soon-to-be wife Alice (Katherine Borowitz) he buys a piece of land, starting an independent contracting company, the Vitelli Bros.
While Mac has inherited his father's "Old World" value system, Vico and Bruno have different goals in life. Vico is a frustrated ladies' man who can't get a date and Bruno is an aspiring artist and the first member of the family to go to college. What Vico and Bruno have in common is a desire to enter into the world beyond the streets of Queens, a seductive and exciting world represented by Oona (Ellen Barkin), an artists' model and self-styled Bohemian.
Mac is a film about dreams and the overwhelming desire to achieve them. Mac dreams of building houses his own way through hard work. Vico wants to work hard and play hard. Bruno dreams of being an artist and using his mind to get ahead. But Bruno and Vico dream of rising out of the lower middle class and entering the sophisticated world of Oona and her Bohemian friends.
The film traces the trials Mac goes through in trying to make it as an independent contractor, from bad land purchases to keeping his brothers motivated. Along the way Mac is forced to motivate his brothers on a daily basis. He also confronts an unscrupulous builder who used the Vitelli brothers' finished homes as models for his own houses.
Turturro, Badalucco, and Capotorto are excellent in their depiction of the Vitelli brothers. Turturro is once again very convincing in his role as man slowly being consumed by the pursuit of his dream. He plays Mac with just the right amount of passionate fire. Badalucco continues his comedic roles which began in Spike Lee's Jungle Fever with his portrayal of Vico. Capotorto also does a fine job as the confused Bruno. This is not the first time that Turturro, Badalucco, and Capotorto have worked together and the sense of family that they create on the screen is remarkable. In one scene the three men are in the bathroom together - Turturro is using the toilet, Badalucco is shaving, and Capotorto is in the bathtub. There is no embarrassment or ill-ease between the actors, they just appear to be brothers in an everyday situation.
The problem with the movie is that it is singularly focused on Mac's obsession with doing things his own way. Vico's attempts at being a ladies' man is utilized only in comic interludes. Bruno's desire to be a full-fledged artist and his relationship with Oona are barely explored. As a result there is not enough character development to explain their departure from Vitelli Bros. Construction.
Turturro has done a fine job in writing a tight script and in directing his first film. The acting is convincing and the camera work is engaging and daring, with close ups on the construction work being performed. Mac is an interesting and enjoyable film, but I was left with the feeling that it could have been better and that the characters of Alice and Oona could have been more fully explored.