Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

`Household Saints' Digs into Religious Themes Nancy Savoca's Touching Film Pushes Moviegoers to Think for Themselves

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

`Household Saints' Digs into Religious Themes Nancy Savoca's Touching Film Pushes Moviegoers to Think for Themselves

Article excerpt

ONE movie at a time, women continue to challenge the long-held male domination of American film. Recent examples of this effort, from "The Ballad of Little Jo" to "The Joy Luck Club" and "Boxing Helena," show female directors and writers tackling difficult subjects that relate to women on social as well as cinematic grounds.

These include family relations, issues of equality and independence, and freedom from both oppression and idealization by power-wielding men. While far from perfect, the films raise questions and provoke thought in ways that few pictures from Hollywood's old-boy network care to do.

The most fascinating of the latest woman-made movies is "Household Saints," directed by Nancy Savoca from a screenplay she wrote with Richard Guay, based on a novel by Francine Prose.

This film has a structural flaw - its first and second halves are not well-integrated with each other - that may confuse moviegoers and prevent the picture from finding the audience it deserves. For spectators who open their hearts to its deeply felt story, however, it offers rich rewards.

The story begins as a comedy-drama about broadly drawn Italian-American characters, showing how a butcher named Joseph Santangelo wins the hand of young Catherine Falconetti from her father in a late-night pinochle game.

Catherine doesn't like the idea of an arranged marriage - this isn't the Old Country, she spiritedly reminds her dad - but no better prospects have come along. So she marries Joe, moves into his home, and sets about coping with his strong-willed mother, who has a story, a saying, and a superstition to suit every conceivable occasion.

The first half of "Household Saints" focuses on these characters and a few others in the neighborhood, sketching a frequently amusing portrait of Italian-American folkways without breaking any new ground. But the movie undergoes a major shift when Catherine and Joe have a daughter named Teresa, who proves to be a most unusual child.

From her earliest years, she is preoccupied with questions about her Roman Catholic faith, and by high school age she's determined to become a nun. …

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