Opening in theatres this week from director Marc Fusco, The Nickel Palace and Rocky Mountain Pictures comes a film that is long on comedy and laughs because everyone needs to say hey, this is MY UNCLE RAFAEL.
This film tells the story of Uncle Rafael (Vahik Pirhamzei), a elderly Armenian gentleman who has seen it all. Working in his son Hamo (also Vahik Pirhamzei) coffee house, he gets to know the customers and treats them like family. Uncle Rafael listens closely to their problems and always has a kind word or an answer they can relate to.
That is what Michele (Rachel Blanchard) heard one day while sitting at Hamo’s Coffee Shop. Trying to come up with a reality television show quickly, she overhears Uncle Rafael and knows immediately that this is the show people need to see. The problem is trying to convince Uncle Rafael who seems quite content with the way his life is.
Michele comes up with the idea of the Schumaker family and their problems. Jack (Anthony Clark) is preparing for a divorce from his wife Blair (Missi Pyle) and in a depressive state. Blair is currently living with her two kids Kim (Carly Chaikin) and Beau (Sage Ryan) and sarcastic boyfriend Damon (John Michael Higgins). The idea is to bring Uncle Rafael into the family dynamic and discover whether Blair is really ready to finish things with Jack to marry Ryan.
Uncle Rafael has one week to turn things around with his own brand of family lessons that need learning and the family must play by his rules – this is going to get interesting.
FINAL WORD: Pirhamzei is brilliant as Uncle Rafael. In this role he is charming, witty, full of wisdom and a cheeky uncle if I ever saw one. I absolutely fell in love with this character five minutes into the film. Yes, everyone needs an Uncle Rafael to know that the world is spinning as it should and if it isn’t – Uncle Rafael has someone to take care of that as well.
Pirhamzei throws himself into double duty also playing his own son Hamos, the son who feels he’s never quite good enough for his father yet always on the prowl for the next money maker. He plays both characters, and their emotions with such ease that it is quite astounding to watch.
Pyle as Blair is so made for this role. She is sassy but knows her life isn’t everything she thinks. Higgins as Damon or ‘demon’ as he is called by Uncle Rafael is a straight forward world class jerk – well played! Clark as Jack is kind of a lump that is molded back into a man by Uncle Rafael. He has some funny moments but I wish there could have been a little more backbone to this character.
Blanchard as Michele reminds me of the mindset of anyone who would want to do a reality show – kind of out there a little. She plays to the family, plays to Uncle Rafael and eventually gets a little played herself.
The film has garnered some attention from the Boston International Film Festival, The Pomegranate Film Festival and Arpa International Film Festival. The film was also written by Pirhamzei along with Scott Yagermann. This isn’t Pirhamzei’s first appearance as he has played over twenty characters in different variety shows and had a role in the television show IMMIGRANTS and SURVIVING PARADISE. If that isn’t enough he also speaks Farsi, Armenian, German, which also makes him linguistically diverse like he needs anything more right?
Other cast include: Tadeh Amirian as Robo, Anahid Avanesian as Linda, Austin Butler as Cody Beck, Jo Lo Trugilo as Father Jim, Giovanni Cirfiera as Pietro, Amanda Leigh Cobb as Angela, and Fred Cross as Sam.
TUBS OF POPCORN: I give UNCLE RAFAEL three and a half tubs of popcorn out of five. This really is an interesting concept that I so enjoyed. To take the premise of the ridiculousness of reality t.v, add a dash of the unpredictable and throw in an Armenian Uncle everyone loves is brilliant!
In the end – America, meet your new uncle!