Household Saints is a long film some subplots such as Vincent DOnofrios brother Michael Rispolis obsession with Madame Butterfly and eventual suicide could perhaps have been dropped. The film is actually two different plots one Catherines story, the other Teresas. The theme that unites both and, what the film ultimately concerns itself with, is superstition and miracles. However, the two stories approach superstition very differently. Catherines story is about accepting superstition and eventually learning to shuck it off; on the other hand, Teresas story is a wholehearted comic throwing of itself into Catholic miracles and sainthood.
As to whether any of the superstition is real or not, Nancy Savoca keeps her distance and never says. At best we have some ambiguous maybe miracles the hint at the end that maybe God tipped Josephs hand during the pinochle game, the possibility that Catherines witnessing Joseph slaughtering a turkey caused her miscarriage, flowers outside the hospital that may not have been blooming the day before. Nancy Savoca is happy to remain on the fence and has no more to say about the miracles than that they might be there, then again might not. Her delight is in comic reactions of ordinary people to belief in the otherworldly be it Tracey Ullmans cautious praying about taking the curse away, Judith Malinas phlegmatic certainty in the existence of miracles, and especially Lili Taylors steadfast desire for sainthood and the particularly witty little stories about her, God, Jesus and St Paul playing a game of pinochle or a surreal vision where Jesus appears in her living room while she is doing the ironing. Nancy Savocas blessing is an ability to come from an agnostics distance and create an everyday comic sense of wonder out of what other people believe.
The film features a particularly good cast. Top-billed Tracey Ullman is far too old to seem convincing as a teenager, nevertheless plays with a feisty fire that is appealing one wishes that she had not given to accept Vincent DOnofrio so easily, the sparks between her fire and his lazily assured amusement would have been great to see drawn out further. The other unfortunate thing is that when Tracy Ullman gets to play her own age during the second half, the characters fire is completely toned down and she drops into the background. On the other hand, Vincent DOnofrio is completely convincing in both parts he plays his macho role with considerable humour and his becoming a hard-headed middle-aged father with a stubbornly made-up mind is an authentic transformation. The best performances however come in the supporting cast Victor Argo as Tracey Ullmans gruff father and Judith Malina who is a thorough scene-stealer as Vincent DOnofrios phlegmatic old bird of a mother.
Nancy Savoca has made a number of other films as director. The only other work of hers that falls within genre territory is the Virgina Andrews tv movie If There Be Thorns (2015).
Clip from the film here:-