++ Major Spoiler Alert ++
Who is the real star in a film like Big Night? Is it the obvious main character? Is it the food? Is it the era? How about the promise of Louis Primo, the oft mentioned jazz musician who never actually shows his face?
The answer to that question probably differs depending on who you are and what you expect from a film. I screened this little gem on Saturday and wondered why I'd waited so long. Perhaps it was because I knew Liev's role was not-so-big.
As Liev Fan I could say that his stint as a doorman was impactful. Sure he had only background dialogue and no plot points, but he stood out to me. I could point out that he was mentioned on IMDB in the Thank You's which sometimes means that he worked harder than the credits would indicate - worked for free or below scale or whatever it was that they considered to be above and beyond.
What I would rather do is be truthful and say that I enjoyed this film for the very reasons I doubt it would be made today. There was a relaxed pace and confidence in what they were trying to acheive that made you relate to the food and it's chef: they would rush their craft for no one.
There were structural issues that we're learning as iron clad rules in film class today. The meeting with the banker should have been sooner to establish the plot right away. We didn't see the florist, who is the main character in the B Storyline, until the second act. etc. Is this what makes a movie indie? The fact that it's willing to break these rules? Maybe. Or is it Indie because they did not succumb to the formulaic and the studios want and pay for the formula?
I'm not sure, but I did enjoy the pace and inflections of the film, and as always left grateful for another (albeit brief) glimpse of Liev doing what he does best. If you plan on watching it (which I hope) and you're as highly suggestible as I am, make sure you have some Italian food on hand or you will be craving it for days.