Director: David Anspaugh

Without an American theatrical distributor, possibly due to the involvement of Glitter star Mariah Carey, Hoosiers and Rudy director David Anspaugh’s WiseGirls, which according to IMDB received rave critical reviews and an audience-wide standing ovation at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival, ended up mostly forgotten debuting on Cinemax with a Lion’s Gate DVD release. GoodFella Paul Sorvino’s Academy Award winning daughter Mira (Mighty Aphrodite) takes on the mafia as a woman who leaves tragedy and medical school behind in Missouri to stay with her elderly grandmother in Staten Island. Based on a glowing recommendation and a job tip from her grandmother’s equally old caretaker, Mira Sorvino’s Meg Kennedy takes a position as a waitress in an Italian restaurant run by rude manager Gio Esposito (Joseph Siravo). Once in her new place of employment, Meg quickly learns it is a front for the drug and mob business conducted in back rooms by Mr. Santalino (Arthur Nascarella) and his son Frankie (Christian Maelen), both of whom take a shine to Meg after her quick thinking and emergency training helps her save the life of a mobster in a particularly gruesome scene. Against her better judgment, Meg learns to keep quiet and go along with the job, keeping the ridiculously generous gratuities and learning to deal with some of the quirks of the dangerous patrons when she is befriended by and forms a makeshift family unit with two fellow waitresses, the tough, streetwise Raychel (Mariah Carey) and the sweet, aspiring actress Kate (Melora Walters) who help her move on from her dark past. The three women stick together but business gets even more dangerous after a burst of violence sweeps through the restaurant and another major plot twist is revealed. While mob movie fans have seen it all before in countless other films, it’s interesting to see the genre handled with three female leads, none of whom have to use sex to wield power or get by, instead relying on their brains, female intuitions and consciences despite the male dominated environment and never-ending harassment of the restaurant atmosphere. Much better than one would expect given Carey’s horrific reviews in regards to Glitter (note: her accent in this film sounds quite impressively authentic) and it reminds us once again that it’s a shame Mira Sorvino isn’t given more work—she has the ability to process situations internally and we can see her character thinking things through at every turn.

Rent WiseGirls
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