Review: ‘Mafia Mamma’

Toni Collette Becomes A Mob Don In Catherine Hardwicke's Messy Action Comedy

Toni Collette is stepping into the shoes of Tony Soprano and Michael Corleone’s shoes in Catherine Hardwicke’s action comedy Mafia Mamma. Playing an insecure codependent housewife with a cheating husband, she soon learns that her estranged grandfather has recently died. Initially, she flies to Italy in hopes to bone her way out of her marital misery, eat great food, and attend his funeral but that is soon thwarted when she learns of her  inheritance: the throne to the Balbano crime family. 

After a run in with a hot younger man at the Roma airport, she is soon shown the business  by her grandfather’s number two, Bianca (Monica Bellucci). At war with a neighboring crime family, she unintentionally kills their Dons, proving to all she may have more of what it takes to be the boss than they thought. 

Collette doesn’t bring much nuance to the role, instead playing up a bunch of American stereotypes, often to cringy levels. For the first third of the film she’s needy and horny and not much else. Kristen Feels like an amalgamation of a few of Colette’s other comedy characters like the ditzy Joni in Knives Out or one of the alters in The United States of Tara. 

This is Toni Collette’s second collaboration with director Catherine Hardwicke, the first being 2015’s Miss You Already. That film was a female driven dramedy in which Collette’s character is diagnosed with cancer, leaving her best friend played by Drew Barrymore to pick up the pieces. Think British Beaches. A mediocre tearjerker at best, that collab was based on female friendship, something Mafia Mamma lacks. There are two women in Kristen’s life that feel like they should have larger roles. 

Sophia Nomvete plays Kristin’s best friend, who despite the actress’ fervor is a little more than the Black friend trope. She appears at the beginning and at the end to help save the day but serves little narrative purpose otherwise. 

Monica Bellucci gets second billing and though the beginning of the film promises her a prominent role, she takes a disappointing backseat as Kristen’s consigliere. Bringing the electric magnetism that she is known for, Belluci’s Bianca teaches her new boss the ropes but then fizzles out come the film’s third act. I wanted more scenes where the two work together, where Bianca does something insanely violent and Collette reacts. Kristen’s two male bodyguards play bigger roles than Bellucci which is a shame. 

The script is a bit of a cohesive mess with the occasional comedic highlight. At its core, the narrative feels like it should be a story of twisted sisterhood, rather than one of self growth. Overall, Mafia Mamma is worth a stream if you got a few friends and a few bottles of wine.

Mafia Mamma is now playing in theaters. Watch the trailer below.

'Mafia Mamma'
A D.C area native, Cortland has been interested in media since birth. Taking film classes in high school and watching the classics with family instilled a love of film in Cortland’s formative years. Before graduating with a degree in English and minoring in Film Study from Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania, Cortland ran the college’s radio station, where she frequently reviewed films on air. She then wrote for another D.C area publication before landing at Punch Drunk Critics. Aside from writing and interviewing, she enjoys podcasts, knitting, and talking about representation in media.