When Michael Gandolfini arrived at Vera Farmiga’s house to meet her for the first time, he had a bouquet of flowers in hand, like a dutiful son visiting his mother. Which he more or less was, since he would be playing the teenage Tony Soprano to her Livia in the Sopranos prequel film, The Many Saints of Newark (in theaters and on HBO Max October 1st). As a young actor with a modest résumé who snagged such a huge role partly because he was the son of James Gandolfini, Michael was eager to learn whatever he could from his esteemed new co-star. She gave him his first lesson before the door was even open. Dropping into a pitch-perfect impression of the late Nancy Marchand as Livia, Farmiga started to re-create the first scene mother and son shared on the landmark HBO drama.
“Who’s there?” she croaked. Gandolfini was confused at first, but she stuck to the script: “Who are you?” Then it clicked, and he began to play along: “Yeah, Ma. It’s me, open the door.” Farmiga complied, introduced Gandolfini to her (real) family, and they got to work.
Both actors can make themselves sound exactly like their TV counterparts. So can plenty of their Many Saints co-stars, like John Magaro, who nails every curl of his lip as the young Silvio Dante. But the goal of the movie — co-written by Sopranos creator David Chase, directed by Sopranos vet Alan Taylor, and peppered with enough Easter eggs to make fans feel like they just gorged on Artie Bucco’s finest dish — isn’t to mimic the show that redefined television in the 21st century. It’s to bring the world of The Sopranos back to life with a new story that can stand on its own.
In fact, Tony Soprano takes second fiddle in this narrative to his “uncle” Dickie Moltisanti, a.k.a. the father of Tony’s “nephew” Christopher, long dead when The Sopranos begins but a looming presence over both adult men’s lives. Chase envisioned Dickie’s prime years — the film’s action begins amid the Newark race riots of 1967 and stretches through 1971 — as the spine of a classic gangster movie. And Many Saints delivers, with a star-making performance from Alessandro Nivola as Dickie, the most nuanced work in years from Ray Liotta (as Dickie’s father, “Hollywood” Dick), charismatic turns from Leslie Odom Jr. (as Dickie’s henchman-turned-rival Harold McBrayer) and Michela De Rossi (as Hollywood Dick’s young Italian bride, Giuseppina), and enough shootouts, backroom deals, and creatively gory Mob hits to keep things lively.
Read more of the Rolling Stone article HERE.