Cinema Review: Feast of the Seven Fishes | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Saturday, June 15th, 2024  

Feast of the Seven Fishes

Studio: Shout! Studios
Directed by Robert Tinnell

Nov 14, 2019 Web Exclusive
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Feast of the Seven Fishes is a holiday comedy that takes its time finding a comfortable rhythm, but ultimately wins over viewers with its understated, Midwestern charm.

Family gatherings are a near-inescapable part of the American holiday experience and thus, rife to be mined for ensemble comedies. Director Robert Tinnell adapted Feast of the Seven Fishes from his own graphic novel of the same name, which was no doubt inspired at least in part by his own youth. The results are a nostalgic, Christmastime movie that warms the audience the more it lets its believable cast of characters bounce off one another.

Young, talented Tony Olivero (Skyler Gisondo) longs for a life away from his family’s quaint, coal-mining town, but family obligations — and an on-again, off-again girlfriend — keep him tied down to home. Days before Christmas — as his large, extended Italian family prepares for theor traditional Christmas Eve dinner — he meets the thoughtful Beth (Madison Iseman), an Ivy League-educated girl from a well-to-do family on the other side of the tracks. Before sparks have even had the chance to fly between them Beth is invited to the family’s annual feast, much to Tony’s horror and Beth’s genuine curiosity. The two are forced to navigate the expectations of their families while multiple generations of Oliveros provide their unsolicited life advice.

Seven Fishes immerses audiences with little warning or subtlety, dumping them into the cold bath that is its early ‘80s, Rust Belt setting. At first it’s almost too much, with nary a single “youns” or pepperoni roll passing by without extra emphasis. Characters speak their hearts’ innermost and vocalize backstory with a bluntness that could have sunk the film had it not subsided by the end of the movie’s first act.

Feast of the Seven Fishes flits rapidly between its gigantic cast of characters. The more time we spend with each, the more we come to like the entire family. Everything is understated, but also believable. Even characters with relatively little screen time – such as Tony’s grandmother, who has been forced to smoke her cigarettes in secret for decades – grow on you as the film goes on. More than anything else, Seven Fishes is superbly well-cast.

On top of that, the setting is incredibly lived-in. Once the movie loosens up and stops pounding viewers with its just slightly west of Pittsburgh-iness, the audience has room to exhale and inhabit its blue collar world. Feast of the Seven Fishes successfully captures a magic and now sadly lost moment just before the Rust Belt started its tailspin into decline, when a population of hard-working coal miners or steel workers could support a diverse, thriving, mid-sized city. Beautifully photographed, Fest of the Seven Fishes will pluck a nostalgic nerve in any viewers who grew up between Western Pennsylvania and Southern Michigan, and who watched their hometowns die over the last four decades.

Overall, it’s a worthy addition to your holiday movie cycle. Seven Fishes doesn’t have to hit dramatic high notes to entertain us. Like many family gatherings, its success can be measured in its ability to remain low-key.


Author rating: 6.5/10

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Average reader rating: 9/10


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