Film Review: The Birthday Cake
Director: Jimmy Giannopoulos
Cast: Shiloh Fernandez, William Fichtner, Val Kilmer, Lorraine Bracco, Ewan McGregor, Emory Cohen, Vincent Pastore, Ashley Benson, Penn Badgley, Aldis Hodge, Jeremy Allen White, Luis Guzman, John Magaro, Jake Weary, David Mazouz, Paul Sorvino
Running Time: 93
Australian Distributor: Signature Entertainment / Screen Media Films
With a cast including Val Kilmer, Lorraine Bracco, William Fichtner, Luis Guzman, Paul Sorvino, Vincent Pastore, Aldis Hodge, Shiloh Fernandez and Penn Badgley, Director Jimmy Giannopoulos had a lot of talent to work with in his directorial debut.
The Birthday Cake follows Gio (Shiloh Fernandez) as he walks through the city streets to deliver a cake from his mother to her mob boss brother, Angelo (Val Kilmer). For the last 10 years since Gio’s father was killed, Angelo, the family, and their associates have gathered to celebrate his memory and eat some cake. But this year, one of them is missing: Gio’s cousin, Leo (Emory Cohen), who’s gotten himself into trouble. Everyone is looking for Leo—from Angelo to the FBI—and they suspect that Gio is covering for him.
As Gio makes his way through the streets to Angelo’s house, he has brief encounters with friends and family members—and with plenty of people who are very interested in Leo’s whereabouts. He occasionally checks in with Leo, too. But none of these encounters lead viewers to much of an understanding about what’s going on here—about the characters, their loyalties, or why we should care about any of it. Really, the only solid information comes from the occasional narration by the priest who’s somehow supposed to tie everything together but fails to do so in a way that makes sense.
Packed with recognisable supporting actors, the formidable cast literally begs that the story receive thoughtful consideration from audiences. Unfortunately, the film consistently misses an opportunity to deliver much more. Notable appearances include Vincent Pastore as Vito, Ashley Benson as Tracey, William Fichtner as Uncle Ricardo, Paul Sorvino as Uncle Carmine, Aldis Hodge as Eagle, and Luis Guzmán as a delightful pot-smoking cab driver who also freely offers relationship advice to anyone willing to listen.
The Birthday Cake offers a slightly different take to the mafia boss genre. At times, the writing can feel cliché and derivative, but makes up for it by giving the audience something new and interesting to work with. This film is very much like the cake it takes its name from – something you know what to expect, just put it in a nice box to keep it fresh.
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