Comedy, 1 h 41 min
A multi-layered, yet light-hearted comedy, that is both easy-to-watch and outlandishly funny
Alto (2015, Del Monico) tells the story of Frankie, an Italian-American singer who is trying to get her big break. Her sister Heather is obsessed with mafia culture, so when they find a dead body in the trunk of their car, Heather convinces Frankie to go to the funeral. At the funeral, Frankie meets Nicolette, the daughter of the mob boss, and they decide to meet up to hear Frankie’s band play. Nicolette decides to help Frankie’s band by giving them an audition for the mafia-themed soap Mob Hit. However, Frankie isn’t sure about this, as she thinks the show sets a bad example for Italian-Americans by glorifying gang violence.
As Frankie and Nicolette spend more and more time together, they start realising that they are attracted to each other. It becomes more complicated when Frankie’s boyfriend Tony proposes to her. Frankie wants to be a good Italian-American wife, but this is difficult when Tony tells her that she should put her music aside to focus on his big break as a frozen-food entrepreneur. In the midst of all the mafia upheaval, Frankie realises that she will need to choose between a safe but uninspired marriage to Tony, or an exciting but unpredictable romance with Nicolette.
There are many different storylines woven into the narrative, and all of them are as outlandish as each other – there is Shakespearian confusion of identity, an FBI investigation, relationships that start and break up, and a wide variety of Italian-American stereotypes. However, the barrage of silly plot points is the film’s biggest strength – in portraying how chaotic and ridiculous family life can be, the film strikes some of its most poignant notes. Throughout the almost slapstick-like action, the film deals with themes of family honour, diaspora identity, and loyalty.
Altogether, the film represents that niche in lesbian film that is so very rarely explored by filmmakers: easy-to-watch fun. Of course, it’s important to have an aesthetic and emotional beauty like Blue is the Warmest Colour or a Carol come along once in a while, but honestly? There are times where you just want to wrap yourself in a blanket and watch something light-hearted, and Alto is perfect for that.
This review was written by:
Pippa is a writer and researcher, who is currently preparing her PhD research on LGBT+ experiences in Higher Education. She's working very hard to watch every LGBT+ film ever made.