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Movie Review: ‘About My Father’ is a messy, limp rom-com with Robert De Niro as bait

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If you were to resurrect the tired storyline of a young couple having to meet their partners’ parents and were looking around for someone to play the gruff, disapproving future father-in-law, one name should definitely not pop out. Robert De Niro.

Yes, he’s hysterical as the intense, no-nonsense, overprotective dad who’d make any suitor turned wide-eyed. Yes, he’s good at playing the role with the straightest of faces. We know that because he’s done it to great effect in “Meet the Parents.” Many times.

And yet “About My Father” brings out this revered Oscar-winner for a sloppy reprise of that role in a consistently unfunny rom-com that you get the distinct feeling might not be in theaters at all if he didn’t lend his deadpan glower.

Comedian Sebastian Maniscalco has co-written and stars in this big sloppy Italian American kiss about family that not only leans into stereotypes — working-class Italians on one side, WASPs on the other — but plows the field with them.

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Maniscalco plays a Chicago hotel manager in love with a country club-raised artist (played by the always-smiling Leslie Bibb) who both have a lesson to learn about the push and pull of blood. “The family is not just one thing. It’s everything,” is the motto the Maniscalco clan live by. It would have been a powerful message in 1972.

Maniscalco’s early life was built on thrift thanks to his father, Salvo, played by De Niro, a man who came to Chicago from Sicily for a better life and brought with him a savage work ethic and a chip on his shoulder about wealth. He didn’t buy his son a skateboard for Christmas, he made a janky one. Why does he love the Fourth of July? “It’s the only holiday you don’t have to buy a gift.”

On the other side is the Collins clan, who came to America on the Mayflower. Mom (Kim Cattrall) is a US senator and dad (David Rasche) is CEO of a luxurious hotel group. They live in a gated compound in Maryland with peacocks wandering around. “You should see the house in Aspen,” mom says.

The plot turns on a July 4th holiday meeting when the Maniscalco father and son visit the girlfriend’s family to suss each other out. Will Salvo be too nice? Is he not trying enough? Could he be trying to sabotage his son’s happiness? Is his son pretending to be someone’s he’s not? Can all this be solved with some pasta and parmesan? Marone!

The clash of cultures is immediately strong, mostly mocking the kombucha-drinking, monogrammed pajamas-wearing and tennis-playing WASPs. (There’s also a Grandma Moses art joke for those still awake. Grandma Moses jokes slay.) The Maniscalcos have their own quirks, like spritzing cologne at every moment. The filmmakers — Laura Terruso directs from a script by Maniscalco and Austen Earl — have the meatballs to frame all this as an immigrant story.

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For those who miss “Meet the Parents,” there’s even a scene virtually lifted, as if counting on viewers being dim. The pool volleyball scene from the 2000 movie — where Ben Stiller gets too competitive and painfully spikes on his girlfriend’s sister — has its equivalent when Maniscalco hits a tennis ball hard into his girlfriend’s brother’s torso.

“About My Father” isn’t the only comedy vying to be the “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” of 2023. The year started with Netflix’s “You People,” starring Jonah Hill and Eddie Murphy, and that movie, however flawed, dealt with race. “About My Father,” is about white people, and should be about class or privilege, but it’s not. It’s about embarrassment, denuding any potential depth.

Things sag and then get weird at the end, as this rom-com turns into a rom-com where the target is dad. There’s even a running-to-the-airport scene when the penny drops for Salvo’s son. But you’ll have figured out that this was a cash grab long before that.

“About My Father,” a Lionsgate release, is rated PG-13 for “for suggestive material, language and partial nudity.” Running time: 89 minutes. Half a star out of four.

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Australia’s richest woman demands gallery remove unflattering portrait

Australia’s richest woman demands gallery remove unflattering portrait

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Australia's richest woman demands gallery remove unflattering portrait

Australia’s richest person Gina Rinehart has demanded the country’s National Gallery to remove a seemingly unflattering portrait of her from display.

Rinehart, 70, is the Executive Chairwoman of Hancock Prospecting, a privately owned mineral exploration and extraction company, and is worth an estimated $30.6bn (£15.9bn).

The award-winning Aboriginal artist Vincent Namatjira included Rinehart in his current large-scale exhibition at the National Gallery of Australia, along with the late Queen Elizabeth II, Jimi Hendrix and football player Adam Goode.

However, Rinehart is seemingly unimpressed with Namatjira’s depiction of her and has lobbied to have it hidden from view.

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The painted image features Rinehart looking straight towards the viewer, with her features distorted in Namatjira’s signature style, as well as including a double chin.

According to Financial Review, several of Rinehart’s associates have sent strongly worded messages to the gallery, with the campaign said to have been quietly discussed in political circles.

However, the Canberra-based National Gallery has declined the request from Rinehart’s camp, with director Nick Mitzevich stating that he “welcomes the public having a dialogue on our collection and displays”.

“Since 1973, when the National Gallery acquired Jackson Pollock’s Blue Poles, there has been a dynamic discussion on the artistic merits of works in the national collection, and/or on display at the gallery,” he said in a statement.

“We present works of art to the Australian public to inspire people to explore, experience and learn about art.”

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The Independent has reached out to representatives of Gina Rinehart for comment.

On social media, some have commented that Rinehart’s attempt to hide the portrait from view has resulted in it receiving more attention.

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Paul McCartney becomes UK’s first billionaire musician

Paul McCartney becomes UK’s first billionaire musician

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Paul McCartney becomes UK's first billionaire musician

Music icon Paul McCartney has become the UK’s first billionaire musician, according to the Sunday Times Rich List published Friday, despite the country recording its largest fall in the billionaire count in the guide’s 36-year history.

The 81-year-old’s fortune was boosted by “strong touring, a valuable back catalogue and even a little help from Beyoncé”, who covered the Beatles song “Blackbird”, said the Rich List, considered the definitive guide of the UK’s wealthy.

McCartney, whose net worth was estimated at £1.0 billion ($1.26 billion), has bucked the trend, with the amount of billionaires in the UK falling from a peak of 177 in 2022 to 165 this year.

This is partly due to plans by the government to scrap the “non-dom tax status” from next year, the system whereby people do not pay UK tax on their overseas earnings.

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“Non-dom” has been a political issue for many years, with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s Indian wife Akshata Murty claiming the status, meaning she was not required to pay tax on her shareholding in Infosys, the Bangalore-based IT company co-founded by her father.

However, she said she would pay UK tax on that income after coming under political pressure.

That move has not hit the family’s fortune, with the couple seeing their shares grow in value by £108.8 million to nearly £590 million over the past year, giving the couple a net worth of £615 million, according to the list of 350 individuals and families.

King Charles III’s personal wealth was also estimated to have risen by £10 million to £610 million, thanks to a boost in the net worth of his properties.

Those faring less well include chemicals tycoon Jim Ratcliffe, who bought a stake in Manchester United earlier this year, inventor James Dyson and Virgin entrepreneur Richard Branson, who all saw their multi-billion pound fortunes decrease.

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The list is topped by Indian-born investor Gopi Hinduja and his family for a third successive year. The head of the Indian conglomerate Hinduja Group has an estimated fortune of £37 billion. 

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Costner, Gere, Demi Moore: Hollywood icons on Cannes comeback trail

Costner, Gere, Demi Moore: Hollywood icons on Cannes comeback trail

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Costner, Gere, Demi Moore: Hollywood icons on Cannes comeback trail

This year’s Cannes Film Festival hosts a trio of heartthrobs from the back end of the 20th century, making their comeback on the red carpet: Demi Moore, Kevin Costner and Richard Gere.

From “Ghost” to “Pretty Woman” to “Dances with Wolves”, they are responsible for some of Generation X’s favourite movie moments. AFP looks at what they’ve been up to since.

Demi Moore: ghost girl

On the Croisette, 61-year-old Moore will be making her unexpected return in slasher-horror “The Substance”, competing for the festival’s top prize, the Palme d’Or.

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It has been a long time since Moore came anywhere near a Cannes red carpet, having appeared mostly in small TV roles and forgettable films since the early 2000s.

In her heyday, Moore was a global star after the weepie “Ghost” co-starring the late Patrick Swayze as a murdered businessman who watches over his grieving ceramicist girlfriend from beyond the grave and famously helps her mould clay in a steamy supernatural scene.

Her baggy, androgynous look in that movie — the dungarees and boyish crop — helped define 1990s style, and she had other era-defining hits with steamy dramas “Indecent Proposal” and “Disclosure”.

An Annie Leibovitz photoshoot — showing off her pregnant belly on the cover of Vanity Fair in 1991 — was a stunning move at the time, since copied by Beyonce, Rihanna and others.

She proved her acting chops in meatier 1990s movies such as blockbuster courtroom drama “A Few Good Men” opposite Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson.

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But since the turn of the century, Moore, who has a life-long passion for collecting dolls and bought an entire house to store her 2,000-strong collection, was in the headlines more for her tumultuous love life than her acting.

She formed two Hollywood power couples, first in the 1980s with “Die Hard” star Bruce Willis, father of her three daughters, and then with Ashton Kutcher, the latter union ending acrimoniously in 2013.

Kevin Costner: forever West

The soft-spoken 69-year-old is back in Cannes in his favourite genre, the Western, with the epic “Horizon: An American Saga”.

Fans are hoping his fourth feature as director — which is out of competition at Cannes — will mark a return to form after a series of expensive duds in the 1990s trashed his Oscar-gilded career.

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His directorial debut “Dances With Wolves”, despite being a three-hour Western, was a global hit and in 1991 won the double Oscar whammy of best picture and director.

As an actor he captured hearts in smash hits “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” (1991) and as Whitney Houston’s protector in “The Bodyguard” (1992).

Teaming up with big-gun directors also proved a winning formula, from Oliver Stone’s “JFK” (1991) to Clint Eastwood’s “A Perfect World” (1993).

But then a string of ultra-expensive and hubristic flops — especially “Waterworld” (1995) and “The Postman” (1997) made him into something of a laughing stock.

He continued to work in smaller roles, but invested more in music with his nostalgic country band “Kevin Costner & Modern West”. There has been a late resurgence in his 60s, however, thanks to the long-running hit neo-Western series, “Yellowstone”.

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Richard Gere: zen charm

Gere was the world’s sexiest man according to People Magazine in 1999, when he was 50. By then he had charmed audiences with his quiet seduction in “An Officer and a Gentleman” (1982) and, of course, “Pretty Woman” opposite Julia Roberts.

He and supermodel Cindy Crawford were also the ultimate It-couple. But progressively he gave up glamour for meditation.

Gere had been a Buddhist since he was 25, and increasingly used his fame to speak out, in particular against China’s control of Tibet.

He developed a close friendship with the Dalai Lama and gave a fiery speech against China at the 1993 Oscars that got him barred from future ceremonies.

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It also cost him movie roles in the 2000s as Hollywood sought to tap the vast Chinese market.

For his Cannes comeback, the 74-year-old has reunited with Paul Schrader — who directed him in dark cult favourite “American Gigolo” (1980) — for “Oh, Canada”, playing a Vietnam War draft-evader haunted by his past. 

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