Ty Burr
October 01, 1993 AT 04:00 AM EDT


Current Status
In Season
John Turturro
John Turturro

We gave it an B

When you hear the phrase vanity film, you think of indulgences and folly, of the shapeless piece of ham that can result when actors give birth in a labor of cinematic love. And you get all that with writer-director-star John Turturro’s Mac (1992, Columbia TriStar, R, $95.95), but it somehow doesn’t matter much: The film is too specifically grounded in its maker’s affection for his father, whose life inspired the story and to whom the movie is dedicated. The ego of the star is there but is subsumed in a portrait. Which is fitting, since Mac is about pride in craft. Set in Queens, N.Y., in the early ’50s, the film follows three blue-collar brothers as they try to set up their own construction company in the wake of their immigrant father’s death. The eldest, Mac Vitelli (Turturro), is the driving force behind the venture: Repelled by the flimsy cost-cutting methods of other builders, he burns to establish a family dynasty based on quality. But it’s a losing battle-Mac is carrying the torch of old-world artisanship into an era of prefab modernity-and the loss turns him into an angry and rigid man. It’s only a matter of time before he pushes his brothers-pleasure-loving teddy bear Vico (Michael Badalucca) and intense, artistic Bruno (Carl Capotorto)-into what he can see only as betrayal. As is typical of a movie directed by an actor, Mac gives lots of improvisational latitude to its cast. The favor is returned. If the story meanders anecdotally (in the style of much-told tales swapped over a kitchen table), there’s pleasure in the funny, deeply felt characterizations. And if Turturro the actor occasionally froths a bit too heavily, his directorial eye results in some casually ravishing visual quirks. This is a family photo album whose flaws are swamped by fellow feeling. B

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