Review: ‘Somewhere In Queens’

Ray Romano might have father issues. In his long-running sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond, Peter Boyle’s portrayal of a father who only seems to care about eating and watching sports isn’t quite to Archie Bunker levels of cringe, but it sure gives him a run for his money with slants of homophobia and domineering 50’s authority. In Romano’s latest film, Somewhere In Queens, the great character actor Tony Lo Bianco embodies a father who rarely gives Romano’s Leo the time of day, except when Leo screws up and allows a theft of all the company’s tools.

But even further than those gruff archetypes of macho indifference, Romano’s directorial debut is all about fatherhood and how we fumble through the motions of trying to do the best we can with life’s impervious situations. Thankfully far removed from recycling any sitcom emotions that Romano seems most comfortable within, Somewhere In Queens does this through a strong supporting cast and an insistence on not fully answering all the messy curve balls of life.

Firmly establishing milieu within its opening minutes, Somewhere In Queens opens on Leo with his middle class existence in a very Italian family. Working for his father’s construction company and lunch paling it every day, the only respite his hum-drum life seems to give him is the casual flirtation by a client (a wonderful Jennifer Esposito) and the glory of watching his son Sticks (Jacob Ward) embark on a promising high school basketball career. The fans even have a chant for Leo’s dogged determination to be in the stands each and every game… something that even his wife Angela (Laurie Metcalf) notices goes right to his head too often.

Ultimately, the film isn’t about Leo’s lost legacy, or trying to live athletic dreams vicariously. It’s at one of these games that his son’s awkwardly quiet personality shines through and mom and dad find out Sticks has a girlfriend (Sadie Stanley). Things move quickly for the high school couple, and for a good portion of the film, it focuses on the awkward passions of young love and the crushing swings of heartbreak that often make no sense at that age. Sticks falls hard for Danielle, and while she doesn’t get the cutesy manic pixie girl flourish (actually, Romano’s film is smarter than that), lots of Somewhere In Queens examines the lengths that proud papa will go to ensure Sticks makes it out alive…. which means all types of moral sacrifices and, naturally, the loud arguments of family over a meatball dinner.

Written by Romano and Mark Stegemann, there’s enough humility and heart to carry Somewhere In Queens and create a winning effort. At times a bit maudlin, other times genuinely cutting, and often full of whip smart little doses of fine comedy (Metcalf’s delivery of the film’s final line is simply brilliant), it’s a film that makes us forget any daddy issues and root for Romano to pass from the shadows of his patriarchal misgivings.

Somewhere In Queens is a Roadside Attraction and will be released in the Dallas/Fort Worth area on Friday April 21st at the following locations: AMC Parks @ Arlington, Stonebriar 24, Firewheel 18, Grapevine Mills 30, Mesquite 30, Cinemark West Plano 20