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Ray Romano Somewhere in Queens Review


Somewhere in Queens | Review

Somewhere in Queens | Review

Sticks and Stones: Romano’s Lovable Directorial Debut

Ray Romano Somewhere In Queens ReviewRay Romano’s first foray into acting-directing, Somewhere in Queens, is an uproarious family drama more akin to Little Miss Sunshine than Everybody Loves Raymond. At first, this winsome romp feels familiar, even cutesy—a raucous Italian-American household, bumbling father, protective mother, soft-spoken son, college hoop dreams at odds with the family business—but the film’s surprisingly touching sensitivity shoots for the moon and scores.

Sitcom fans will be pleased to find Romano’s creative stamp all over Queens, but this well-acted ensemble is more heart than formula; it functions (and dysfunctions) when pieces collide in a delightful pileup of human errors. Yes, there’s plenty of laughter, but this film is grounded in anxiety: our best efforts to correct our parents’ mistakes often fail—and even when we try not to repeat them, history often rhymes.

Much like the sous-chef sons in Jiro Dreams of Sushi—relegated to towel-folding duties well into their 60’s—the Russo family is stuck in a genetic assembly line. Blundering sad-sack Leo (a vulnerable Romano) is still engulfed by his own father’s shadow (the toxically traditional Tony Lo Bianco), while his taciturn teenage son Sticks (newcomer Jacob Ward) marches stoically toward the family construction business. Desperate for Sticks to break the cycle by winning a basketball scholarship, Leo urges him forward with Rocky quotes … but his motives clash with tiger mom Angela (pathos-Queen Laurie Metcalf), who ferociously micromanages her son’s life after her own recent cancer remission. Both are tragi-comically selfish; all of them navigate fear and self-loathing. Additional turbulence is injected by Sticks’ capricious first love Dani (firebrand Sadie Stanley), who threatens to derail their dreams—and push the whole family towards apocalypse.

If this doesn’t sound funny, it is. Never ostentatious, Somewhere in Queens’ modest style—balanced by Tracy McKnight’s choice needle drops—gives the Russos room to fight for their own dignity. Like family dramedy predecessors What They Had and Silver Linings Playbook, Romano and Mark Stegemann’s crowd-pleaser script prioritizes characters, honoring each perspective with warts-and-all development. Even the neighborhood MILF (Jennifer Esposito) gets believable moments. And while Metcalf is a proven entity, commanding as ever, the young romantic leads Stanley and Ward are a genuine discovery. Rising above bawdy humor and family fracas, they capture the weight of first love and heartbreak—while Romano shares the credit. He has already proven his dramatic chops in The Big Sick and The Irishman; now his deft conjuration of both performance and content in Queens establishes him as a compelling director.

Somewhere in Queens is not a complex film, but its characters (and actors) hint at family lore and inherited agita that spans generations. Even more subtle, amidst our real-world glut of disinformation, this film is coyly apolitical—but delivers its own poignant sermon on the power of words. From grandpa’s tough love to Leo’s heedless rambling, from Sticks’ tight-lipped silence to Angela’s sharp-edged edicts, this film is a portrait of middle-class malaise and our individual struggles to reclaim authenticity. The end result? Somewhere in Queens gives us the Rocky of underdog Dadcore, a film that is warmly uplifting … and absolute proof that nothing brings troubled families together quite like a movie reference.

Reviewed at the 2022 Tribeca Film Festival – Spotlight Narrative. 106 mins.


Dylan Kai Dempsey is a New York-based writer/filmmaker. His reviews have been published in Vanity Fair, Variety, No Film School, and He’s also developing a graphic novel as well as his own award-winning pilot script, #Likes4Lucas. He began as a development intern at Bonafide Productions in L.A. and Rainmark Productions in London.

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