Welcome to The Wright Stuff, our weekly column following the career of Raptors point guard Delon Wright. Since we can’t influence his training or anything on the court, we’ll recommend films that reflect his past week and hopefully inspire a leap forward. It’ll be part film breakdown, part essay, and part whatever loose piece of wisdom we can shake from the experience.
There will be many weeks like this for Delon Wright, times when his contributions to the Raptors feel less obvious than others. It’s not that he didn’t produce some highlights (here, for example, is a nice drive against the Bulls); it’s more that Delon was rarely the story of the game. In Utah it was DeRozan’s 37 points, against Washington it was Lowry’s ejection and Fred VanVleet’s explosion, and on Tuesday it was the Bobby Portis-fuelled almost comeback by Chicago.
Fortunately, Delon’s brother Dorell is around to provide some perspective on such a state of being. For 11 seasons, the elder Wright played in the NBA, largely in the shade of other far more talented players. This isn’t to say Dorell didn’t have his moments, or his career years. In 2010-11 season with the Warriors (Steph’s sophomore run), Wright averaged a career-high 16.4 points per game while putting up an ahead-of-his-time 6.3 three-point attempts per game. That he was in and out of the league before turning 30 doesn’t diminish any of these accomplishments.
Dorell’s stamp on the game may have been small, may have only been felt by a few — including his younger brother Delon, of course — and may quickly be forgotten, as is usually the case for NBA role players. But it exists.
In 1995’s Big Night, we’re served a small slice of life. Two Italian brothers run a restaurant called Paradise on the Jersey Shore in the 1950s. Like many eating establishments (now, then, and forever), they are struggling to keep things going. The film doesn’t need much more of a conflict than that to keep things interesting — but of course, there are additional complications.
The older brother, Primo (played by Tony Shaloub) is the chef, the maestro in the kitchen. He is also more resistant to the idea of becoming more American. His desire is to introduce the country to real Italian cooking, to his art, and not just kowtow to the whims of the new marketplace in which he finds himself. His younger brother Secondo (Stanley Tucci, who also co-wrote and co-directed the film) wants only to be a success in the land of the free, home of the brave. The two are at loggerheads throughout the film because of this philosophical difference, even as brotherly love suffices every frame.
Then: a grand idea to save the restaurant presents itself, with the help of devilish impresario Pascal (a maniacal Ian Holm). He’ll get famous singer Louis Prima to come to Paradise for a dinner party, which will make for an unforgettable scene. People will hear of the restaurant, learn about the brothers, and a windfall surely won’t be far behind. That’s the working theory anyway.
But those additional complications! Big Night is a film built around these two brothers, but also the small relationships that form in a small town between outsiders. Its characters are all people we’d drive by on the way to somewhere else — the local florist, a barber, the sketchy used-car salesman. It’s why Pascal, with his loud and popular restaurant, appears as the biggest star around. (Even though the image of him may be more myth than we realize at first.) Seeing this brand of success as the goal, Secondo too wants to break free and become larger than life. The problem is that he doesn’t know what this new identity actually looks or feels like yet — and it’s a scary leap to make alone. Is he Italian or American, a cook or a businessman, does he love the old world (represented by a thirst for Isabella Rossellini’s Gabriella) or the new (Minnie Driver’s Phyllis, the steadfast girlfriend)? It’s a central question left unanswered by the film’s end.
That’s not to say problems are left unresolved though. What we learn about the brothers, about Pascal’s way of doing business, about Italian cooking (do yourselves a favour and Google “timpano”), turns out to be a lot. That small slice of life is more filling that we originally imagined. And while the journey of Primo and Secondo may end in failure, it’s actually more (or less?) than that: they still, and forever, will have each other.
During Toronto’s game against the Wizards, Jorge Sierra of Hoops Hype texted with Dorell while Delon played. In a sense, they couldn’t have picked a worse game to watch. The Raptors looked lifeless, and while Delon put in 11 points, it was VanVleet’s aforementioned electric play that stole the show before the final buzzer sounded on a Toronto loss.
Still, reading through the text back-and-forth really does cheer the soul. It’s clear Dorell cares about his little brother, wants him to do well, and — like a good big bro — never fails to try and teach him something about basketball, the NBA, the ways of the world.
In Big Night, there are things Secondo can do better than his older brother — manage customers, talk to women, aspire — but Primo knows his talents and has a more thorough understanding of the life-long dedication to his craft. Even with the restaurant around him failing, and his time in America possibly running short, he knows who he is, and where best he fits.
Dorell plays in Europe now and watches Delon from afar. The ceiling on the latter’s game is still somewhat undecided, but obviously Dorell believes he is capable of greatness. It’s reassuring to know in times of struggle — with the world, or maybe with each other — they can return to this bond as a source of strength. Whatever happens, the Wright brothers know it’s there.