Friends and Romans is a comedy about a group of aspiring Italian-American actors who are sick of being typecast in mob roles, so take matters into their own hands and stage a production of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. However, unbeknownst to the actors, the cast has been infiltrated by both a wanted mob leader and an FBI mole, sending the production into peril.
Friends and Romans elevates its already funny and interesting plot with strong comedic performances throughout. The film is full of actors who have been similarly typecast, with many being alumni of The Sopranos. Michael Rispoli gets laughs as the lead, Nick, a fruit deliveryman who has acted as an extra in The Godfathers, Goodfellas, and Married to the Mob. The characters bend the typical roles, and it is a lot of fun to see typical “tough guys” go for laughs in this kind-hearted light comedy. The film also follows Nick’s daughter, a high school drama student who tries to use her Dad’s mob-like appearance to get the role of her dreams.
The film is full of likable characters, all of whom try to break out of their typecasting. However, although the film starts by trying to revert the stereotypes, it ultimately embraces them fully. The characters flip back and forth on their stance, as the film does. At times, it seems like the film is just trying to ignore the issue and have fun with it by making a few jokes. It works to an extent, but it’s still distracting that Friends and Romans can’t stay focused and make up its mind on a central question in the plot.
Although a lot of comedies rely heavily on coincidence, the plot Friends and Romans is made possible almost entirely through chance. More than anything, it feels like lazy writing and plot development. The daughter’s story, the B-Plot, is underdeveloped and lacks a proper ending, or even a sort of moral for the daughter. The plot is just swept under the rug when the story reaches the final act.
The film is often quite funny, and all of the characters are vivid and lifelike. The film makes the most out of smaller characters, like the high school drama teacher. Although the film is good-natured and likable, its poorly written plotline and flip-flopping on central themes is distracting and ultimately catches up to the comedy as it nears its vague and chance-based conclusion. The film is still worth the watch to see Sopranos characters bend, but not break, the stereotypes that define their acting careers.
The film will be opening on Long Island and New Jersey on November 6th.