Lifetime Film Review: Victoria Gotti: My Father’s Daughter (dir by Catherine Cyran)

I have to admit that, for some reason, I’ve always had a weakness of Mafia movies.

For whatever reason, I just find them to be fascinating, as well as terrifically entertaining.  And when I say that I love mafia movies, I’m not just talking about the ones that everyone else loves, either.  I mean, sure, I love The Godfather films and Goodfellas and all of that.  I can’t wait for the Sopranos prequel to come out next year and I’m eagerly counting down the days until The Irishman drops on Netflix.  However, I also love the Mafia movies that everyone else seems to hate.  Some day, I’m going to get around to writing a stirring defense of Gotti.  Just you wait!

I’m half-Irish and fourth-Italian.  As far as I know, I don’t have any relatives involved with organized crime and, to be honest, I should probably be offended by all of the Mafia stereotypes that I’m exposed too whenever I turn on the television.  But, I have to be honest.  If my father had been in the Mafia, I totally would have used it to my advantage.  I would have been like, “You think you’re some sort of big shot, like Frankie Valli or somebody?  Do you know who my faddah is?  You want me to call him down here right now?”

The Lifetime film Victoria Gotti: My Father’s Daughter is all about being the daughter of a very powerful man.  Victoria Gotti herself even narrates the film and appears in cut-away scenes to discuss what it was like to grow up as the daughter of notorious mob boss, John Gotti.  At the same time, Chelsea Frei plays Victoria in dramatized scenes, showing her talking to her father (Maurice Benard) and dealing with her good-for-nothing husband, Carmine (Elijah Silva).  Because the film is told entirely from Victoria’s point of view, we only see John Gotti through her eyes. In this film, John Gotti is a loving father who is often away from his wife and daughters because he’s either in jail or hiding out from the authorities.  He’s fond of saying stuff like, “Nothing’s more important than family.”  Despite the fact that Maurice Benard gives a convincing performance as Gotti, you’re never quite sure what’s actually going on in his head.  Is he a ruthless murderer or is he just a blue collar guy looking out for his family?  The film isn’t sure but then again, Victoria seems to be unsure as well.  Undoubtedly, someone like John Gotti had to keep a lot of himself hidden away from even those closest to him.

Because of the film’s Victoria-centric structure, we don’t actually get to see any of the standard mafia action.  We hear about people getting taken out by the mob but we don’t actually see any of it happen.  Those hoping for a big mafia epic will undoubtedly be disappointed.  (The film is nearly over before John Gotti even takes over the Gambino Family.)  Instead, the film focuses on Victoria dealing with people judging her because of who her father is and her subsequent marriage to the worthless Carmine.  To be absolutely honest, there’s really not much going on in the movie, as most of the major action occurs off-screen.  However, Chelsea Frei gives a good performance as Victoria and the film occasionally does a good job of contrasting Gotti family life with Gotti crime life.  It’s not a classic mob film but it does provide just enough Cosa Nostra swagger to keep the viewer occupied until the release of The Irishman.