If you’ve endured the War on Christmas rants, you’ll know that what sets off the victims of the battle is when a store cashier wishes them a Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas. As if somehow there’s no other holidays from the minute Starbucks puts out its Pumpkin Spice Grande Hugo until you tint your beer green for St. Patrick’s Day. But there are so many holidays and feasts during this time, that you’d stand there for 15 minutes listing them off before asking if they wanted fries with that. Did you know about the Feast of the Seven Fishes? Are you curious when it takes place? What goes on at the feast? Where did it come from? Thankfully Feast of the Seven Fishes explains it all and takes you back to 1983.
Tony (Booksmart‘s Booksmart) is working at the family’s fishmarket in a small town along the Monongahela River. He can go to art school, but he has not way of affording the tuition. So delivers to customers since his dad Johnny (The Wire‘s Paul Ben-Victor) can’t count on his brother. He has to deliver a lot since the Feast of the Seven Fishes is coming up. This is a Southern Italian tradition of having a communal meal with seven seafood items on Christmas Eve. And turns out that there’s a lot of Italians in the areas whose ancestors moved to the area to work in the mining industry. The holiday changes up for Tony when his old classmate Beth (Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle‘s Madison Iseman) arrives in town during her college break. She’s from a rather waspy family and is dealing with a slight break up. She ends up hanging with Tony and finds herself at the Feast. She’s fascinated with the meal that was put together by the elders that also includes Frankie (The Matrix‘s Joe Pantoliano). But can she really get along with Tony or is she just touristing among the lower class?
Feast of the Seven Fishes works as an ’80s film. I could see this thrown into a marathon with Vision Quest and Class with viewers not thinking it’s new. Things feel right for a movie depicting this time. What feels even better is watching the brothers cooking in the kitchen. The interaction between Pantoliano and Ben-Victor in the kitchen will make you hungry. They known how to prepare a feast for the eyes and the ears. Unlike so many of the teen films of the ’80s, Fishes doesn’t reduce the adults to a bunch of wonking barely visible adults like a Peanuts special. They at least create a world that isn’t so bleak if Tony doesn’t run off to art school. But you do sense that the kid would rather come back for the holidays than be stuck delivering salted fish to old ladies. Perhaps the biggest impact Feast of the Seven Fishes will be getting viewers to contemplate an all seafood night on Christmas Eve or at least give folks a reason to just heat up fish sticks as they finishing trimming the tree. A tradition has to start somewhere and you get an extra holiday among your holidays.
The video is 1.85:1 anamorphic. The transfer brings out the rusty feel of the rust belt town along the river’s edge. Plus a lot of good close ups of how they cook the fish. You’ll want seafood after the film is over. The audio is DTS-HD MA Stereo. It sounds like an ’80s films. The movie is subtitled.
Audio Commentary with Robert Tinnell goes in depth in how things came together for the film.
Behind the Scenes of Feast of Seven Fishes (17:05) he talks about the movie preserving his family traditions and recipes. He originally did the project as a web comic. Later he made it as a comic book with recipes.
The Game (13:13) is a short made. It’s a bit poetic about his history of playing football.
Writer-Director Robert Tinnell’s Personal Photo Gallery (2:54) are snapshots from the shoot. It looks cold when they were shooting.
Theatrical Trailer (2:17) takes us back to the winter of 1983.
Shout! Factory presents Feast of the Seven Fishes. Directed by: Robert Tinnell. Screenplay by: Robert Tinnell. Starring: Skyler Gisondo, Madison Iseman, Addison Timlin, Josh Helman, Joe Pantoliano & Paul Ben-Victor. Rated: PG. Running Time: 99. Released: December 17, 2019.
Tags: Feast of the Seven Fishes, Shout! Factory, The Matrix, The Wire