Ray Romano Shines As A Father Lost In His Ways

Apr 22, 2023

Ray Romano is in the director’s chair for the first time for Somewhere in Queens. The movie doesn’t have any flashy filmmaking, but the story is honed in on a single and very strong theme. The film also marks Romano’s first time as a feature screenwriter, and while the script, which he co-wrote with Mark Stegemann, is no masterpiece, it feels true to life in a way that will get under one’s skin and stay there. With Laurie Metcalf coming off the bench to co-star, the entire supporting cast comes to feel like Romano’s actual family in a way his iconic sitcom did not.

Leo (Romano) and Angela (Metcalf) reside in Queens with their anxious yet talented son Sticks (Jacob Ward). They are surrounded by a huge Italian American community and Leo works for his family’s construction business. Most of the family pays little to no attention to Sticks, and only Leo knows his son is a star basketball player in the making but is just shy. When Leo and Angela realize Sticks has a girlfriend, it hits them that maybe he is doing just fine. However, the rest of the family wants him to join the construction company. When things start to go sideways for Sticks, Leo intervenes where he shouldn’t, exposing himself as more desperate than he cares to admit.

Laurie Metcalf and Ray Romano in Somewhere in Queens

Somewhere in Queens falls in a long line of stand-up comedians transitioning from stage to television before finally directing a feature. For some comedians, that apex might look like Bill Burr in The Mandalorian; for others, it’s Chris Rock writing, starring, and directing in Top Five. For Ray Romano, directing really is the final frontier, as he gained mainstream success from Everybody Loves Raymond and has been in two Martin Scorsese projects. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Romano is not writing his biography, but rather patching together characters from the neighborhood he grew up in to fill in the soul of a script he wrote.

The supporting cast of Somewhere In Queens is one of the film’s greatest strengths. This is not exactly a feel-good movie — at least not until the very end. For the most part, these characters are causing stress and tension for everyone they encounter. But it all clicks and the main cast elevates that pressure. Sebastian Maniscalco (The Super Mario Bros. Movie) gives a subtle but effective dramatic performance as one of Ray’s brothers and Everybody Loves Raymond alum Jon Manfrellotti gives a similarly low-key but memorable turn.

Jacob Ward in Somewhere in Queens

Somewhere in Queens starts off as Ward’s movie but slowly becomes about Romano’s character. This move is a little bumpy and there’s a case for the film being slightly longer. Sticks’ basketball arc is compelling and there is almost a sports movie hiding in the first act, but the time spent with him is split between school, sports, and love, with the latter being the script’s main focus. In the second act, Sticks’ girlfriend, played by The Goldbergs’ Sadie Stanley, is the baton, passing the story from Ward to Ramano. The story device that gets the plot to this point is perhaps the most interesting part of the screenplay, but the inconsistent amount of screentime for Ward thereafter makes the transition a little rocky.

Somewhere in Queens is ultimately a well-made family drama with laughs sparsely placed throughout. The cast is crushing it and the script is as gritty as it is sweet. Romano’s direction works well, and every department is on the same page. Family dramas are not in short supply, but Romano’s vision is specific and has a tight enough focus to be enjoyable.

Somewhere in Queens is now playing in theaters. The film is 106 minutes long and rated R for language and some sexual material.

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