In an alternate Joe Pantoliano timeline, there would be no more “Bad Boys” reboots. He’s played enough cops. No more “Joey Pants” sleazeballs, either.
He’d spend his years nursing little indie comedies like “Feast of the Seven Fishes” (Christmas is coming, RENT IT) and “From the Vine” to life.
“Vine” is the sort of cute comedy that you go into with an idea that you’re going to like it. There’s not a lot to it. But a game cast, sweetly-undemanding story and gorgeous Italian scenery make that hope come true.
It’s about quitting the real world and going back to the Mother Country to make wine that your grandfather made long ago. That’s what Mark Gentile (Pantoliano), an Italian-Canadian car company CEO finds himself doing.
He was a corporate lawyer who took over when his friend and boss, the founder, died. Unable to get the founder’s dying wish — that the company go green and sustainable — past the board of directors, Mark impulsively goes back to the place where they called him “Marco” as a boy.
That would be the hometown of Acerenza, Basilicata, Italy, and the lost-to-unpaid-taxes home of his late Nonno. That’s what they call “grandfather” there.
The movie’s “Meet Cute” comes when Mark reaches town, and an inquisitive cop (Marco Leonardi) decides to rough him up a little. Forget your childhood pal Luca, will you? “Shut up, Americano!”
Mark reverts to “Marco,” drinks and dances with the locals, breaks into the old house and has dreams and reveries about the place, the land, his grandfather and wine.
The fact that he didn’t really clear any of this with his careerist wife (Wendy Crewson of “The Frankie Drake Mysteries”) or aimless and well-over-20 daughter (Paula Brancati) doesn’t figure in his daydreams. He’ll tend the vines, get help picking the grapes and bring wine-making back to Acerenza!
But but…all the young people left long ago. It’s a half-empty town of old people, even if it is picturesque as all get-out, nestling on the top of a hill. Any vintner has to pass “certification” to grow Aglianico grapes and make wine. How will this ever work out?
“Basta andare con esso,” as the Italians say. “Just go with it.”
Confessing to the priest about his guilt, his worries about getting the town’s hopes up, is little comfort.
“By trade, I am a lawyer.”
“Perhaps you are beyond redemption, my son.”
Yes, everybody calls him “Avvocato” there, because “lawyer” is as big an insult in Italy as it is here.
Marco’s hallucinations include animated grape leaves mocking his naivete and chats with his dead grandfather and dead automotive boss.
The obligatory harvest and hand (or foot) crushing the grapes scenes are included.
And obstacles — not enough of them, really — threaten to upend the whole enterprise.
Tony Nardi and Tony Nappo play grumpy locals who pitch in, rounding out an Italian cast that is charming, quaint and funny. A young would-be suitor vamps through “Life is a Highway” when daughter Laura and Mom show up.
Tom Cochrane, who recorded that, is Canadian. Get it?
As I say, there isn’t much to this — just an Italian-American movie star who’s into wine playing an Italian-Canadian getting his feet wet in a place that should be on any list of the Most Photogenic towns in all of Italia.
But if you’re in the right mood for vicarious travel, wine and lawyer-jokes in Italian, this hits the spot.
MPAA Rating: unrated, a tiny bit of profanity, innuendo
Cast: Joe Pantoliano, Paula Brancati, Marco Leonardi, Wendy Crewson and Tony Nardi, Tony Nappo.
Credits: Directed by Sean Cisterna, script by Willem Wennekers, based on the novel “Finding Marco” by Kenneth Canio Cancellara. A Samuel Goldwyn release.
Running time: 1:34