In the movie Mighty Fine, Joe Fine instructs the movers from Exodus Moving Company to be very careful with his disco ball when his family is relocating from Brooklyn, NY, to New Orleans, LA. I guess having a personal disco ball was a status symbol in 1974!
Just like the tiny mirrors on a disco ball, the movie “Mighty Fine” shows us the many different facets of a family, especially when that family is dealing with Joe Fine, portrayed by Chazz Palminteri. In an enjoyable live chat after a recent online preview of the film, Palminteri called Joe Fine a “paradox,” a man who vacillated between angry rages and being the benevolent charmer who tried to keep everyone happy.
When the Fine family, consisting of dad Joseph, mom Stella, (who spent time in hiding as a child during the Holocaust); 17-year-old Maddie, and younger sister Natalie pull up stakes and move to Louisiana in 1974, we learn that the women of the family hope this move will dilute Joe’s tendencies to angry rages. The deterioration of the financing for Joe’s business, though, revives the rage monster and it wakes up hungrier than ever.
Stepping away from the heavy topic for a moment, I have to share the fun and retro-themed joy of all the 70’s paraphernalia in this film. (I was 10 in 1974, the year in which the film is set.) Since there was a live chat occurring among all of the participant bloggers when we watched the film online, it was amusing to hear reactions ranging from, “Oh My God people once smoked inside houses!” to “Oh yeah, I can remember when we had to dial the phone using that rotary dial.”
Back to the film’s “heavy topic.” It was sobering to hear all of the experiences with emotional abuse that the participant bloggers shared. Women whose mothers made courageous decisions to leave everything behind in order to get out of abusive situations; women who had been victims of abuse themselves; women who hypothesized that in 2012 Joe Fine would have had access to a mental health professional who would do a whole lot more than his family physician, who Joe convinced that the only problem was a bit of business stress.
Natalie Fine recites a poem at the end of the movie. A line from that poem stayed with me after I watched the film, as I tried to decide what to focus on for this blog. Here’s the line:
When asked about emotionally abusive parents such as Joe, Chazz Palminteri said that every parent needs to remember: “You are a mirror.”
What did Maddie see in the mirror of her mother when she tried to placate Joseph? What did both girls see when Stella made her final decision?
I hope you will consider finding out how everything ended by going to see Mighty Fine when it is released on May 25. It is only available in certain cities (sorry, Tallahassee). You can check here to see if the film is coming to a theater near you.
Here is the film trailer. (If you notice a resemblance between Andie McDowell and Rainey Qualley, who plays her older daughter, you have good reason! They are real life mother and daughter.)
Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many. My pronouns are she/her/hers.