13 Feb 2022
Mark Janicello, Timo Merkhoffer, Gabriela Burkhardt
Exhibiting a cluster of bizarre and unprecedented events, musician and ex-con Tony Finelli looks back at his so-called ‘extraordinary’ life in Mark Janicello’s latest film: The Finellis. Whilst this comedic feature is brimming with intrigue and possibilities, the concept actualised is absurdly structured with flippant on-the-nose humour as it tries to be satirical.
The Finellis situates Tony participating in a ‘tell-all’ interview to celebrate his new musical twenty-five years after his shock arrest and scenes cut between him answering deep and personal questions and him going through the events themselves after his release. Storyline-wise, Mark Janicello’s story is thought-provoking and engaging, maybe in part because it is semi-autobiographical. We sympathise instantly with Tony himself, performed by Janicello himself, as he allows the viewer to empathise with his prison plight. This element of truth is realised in a quirky way throughout the film, with graphics structuring the piece as though it is like a reality show, with swearing bleeped out and laughter following the actors.
Tony’s family exists at the core of his story, with his daughters feeling abandoned and his ex-wife acting with constant hostility towards him. Other characters fly in and out of the film with sometimes unclear motives, but they are otherwise equal parts enjoyable and fascinating to watch. Whilst there is a revolving door of different characters that fly in and out of Tony’s journey, each performance is incredibly effective. Every actor remains true to the personality of their individual character throughout the film, especially those in Tony’s family who cement the strength of a chaotic, yet loving, family that embraces many cultures and ways of life.
Not landing quite right is the tone that The Finellis adopts for serious moments. As it is a comedy, there are often series of melodramatic shots of Tony’s inner turmoil as he struggles to adjust to life again. There are plenty of jarring camera shots that change frequently and, whilst these make the film feel really full of action, are often inconsistent and slow the film down. Combined with cringe-worthy and occasionally unrealistic jokes that fall flat, you cannot tell if the film itself is being deliberately ironic or if the humour just does not land right.
What Mark Janicello claims to be doing is using irony in order to raise awareness of issues concerning gender and sexuality and expose ignorance. This definitely allows for the film to redeem itself in the second half, where the power of performance is used by some characters to be authentic to their true selves. In particular, positive transgender representation is always fantastic to see on screen as a way to empower individuals to like who they are (although, it is weird when Tony appears to compare this struggle to his time in prison). Likewise, fat-shaming and inappropriate sexual commentaries towards drag queens are also ironized, which allude to the point that Janicello was trying to make, however at times the impact of these scenes does not land. The derogatory comments towards marginalized characters that are made do not always feel very welcomed and sometimes feel unnecessary.
The Finellis is a comedic feature film with a plot that takes on too many different directions. Although a fascinating and emotional real-life story, the film itself feels a bit too surface-level in its attempt at being satirical. For an escape from reality it is a good watch, but maybe not the film for you if you want to watch something with a bit more impact.