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Elevated by one genuinely sweet and quirky scene between fathers and daughters at a ballet recital, Anne DeSalvo’s first feature, The Amati Girls, is an earnest ensemble weeper I’d at least feel comfortable seeing with my grandmother. The girls are four grown Italian American sisters in an amorphously middle-class Philadelphia. Grace (Mercedes Ruehl), the eldest, runs herself ragged and has difficulty asserting herself with piggish husband Joe (Paul Sorvino), while Christine (Sean Young) and Denise (Diane Manoff) struggle with their men and their Catholic upbringing, one afraid to divorce, the other to commit. At its most cloying, the film insists on showing the mentally disabled youngest sister, Dolores (Lily Knight), ogling a boyfriend of similarly undefined dimness and conveniently gentle disposition. “There’s a top for every pot,” says Mom (Cloris Leachman).
Tragedy strikes late in the film and is quickly converted into an opportunity for catharsis. Faith gets tested, God shows his hand. As it wipes all tears away, the film opts for Christian acquiescence even where grievances seem more than warranted. Brought to us by Providence Entertainment, a distribution company committed to “life-affirming” films (according to its mission statement), The Amati Girls seems less interested in tracking that elusive top for every pot than in settling for one-size-fits-all.