Bobby Russo (Gerard Garilli) has no ordinary family. His uncle is the head of the local organized crime syndicate, his father is an underling, and there’s no real chance for him to escape. So the possibility of total calamity is an ever-present threat, but the normal machinations of mob life aren’t the only concern. Bobby has a secret, and discovery could also mean the end. Living a dangerous double life, Bobby has us in a similar state. At the same time we feel the injustice of his personal plight, we have to acknowledge his professional deeds, and despite the quandary that Director Joseph Pupello presents in his 108 minute feature film Dress Code, there’s still plenty to take away when the credits roll.
We first meet Bobby as an adult, and little pause given, it’s clear that he’s knee-deep in the life. But all mobsters have an origin story, and just maybe, these children find a way to circumvent their lineage.
On the upside, young Bobby (Nichols Giordano) has at least one thing going for him. Chris is his friend (Aden Dixon) and confidant. He knows Bobby’s secret, is completely open to the difference, and the easy way the two banter confirms the unconditional acceptance. In this, we also see that Bobby is down-to-earth, and understands the importance of being in a two-way supportive relationship.
Unfortunately, the ledger is stacked much higher on the other side. Aside from his mob connectivity, Dad is – well, forget about it. Played by Freddie Maas, the actor carries the weight of his character’s violent laden past and present and the sheer disappointment of a life filled with personal and professional failures. In turn, we understand where Dad’s physical and verbal abusive nature comes from, and in terms of Bobby, there isn’t going to be much room for nuance.
So an inferiority complex well established, having a son who isn’t in line with the norms of the day is definitely a reflection on his paternal manhood, and as the hints reveal, we see how much is at stake for Bobby.
Thus, Bobby’s dour, reserved demeanor isn’t just about the secret he keeps, and Giordano’s pained reticence really makes us feel the shackles of his situation. Chris isn’t the only thing he has going for him, though.
His mom (Alex DiTrolio) is caught in the middle of all this too, and while the 1990s setting does not provide a true understanding, she loves her son without reservation. In turn, DiTrolio oozes a helpless empathy, which implores that there’s no bounds to what she will do to take away his pain.
So the backstory set, the film returns to the present. Dad is even more disposed, and with a wife and baby on the way, Bobby’s choices have dwindled to one.
He accepts his place in the life. But the domesticity of Bobby’s life veers us off from the reality, and Andrew Froening’s cinematographic set up of the suburban scenes, only makes the normalcy more pronounced.
Enter Uncle Rocco, he’s always there to recalibrate the imagery. Frank Osso in the part, the actor employs command with a seething rage that dominates each scene. On the other hand, the overbearing nature isn’t the scary part. The way Osso fits the square peg of his violent life into the moral circular for the rest of us, is unavoidably persuasive – especially for Bobby.
The job requirements don’t jibe with the decent youngster we knew or the adult he is. Unquestionably tragic, the downward spiral spins out of control in a manner familiar to mob life, and alongside, remains Bobby’s private life.
The stakes continually raised, the personal moment of truth reveals the critical mass Bobby must suppress on a daily basis. He’s finally free to let his real self emerge, and set to an uplifting pop song called It’s Yours (H. Kink), the viewer feels like the chains have been unlocked. So much that, we almost want to throw off the burdensome shackles that are tied to our own secrets.
Of course, reality must inevitably set back in, and dressing down to acceptable levels, injustice screams out. Our empathy can’t help go into high gear and then we remember.
Predestined or not, Bobby’s public attire isn’t just a sweat suit and sneakers. He willingly fulfills his duties, and for as much as we want him to be a symbol for fellow sufferers, how much sympathy does he actually deserve?
A fine mess for sure, the only thing to be done is to compartmentalize the tragedy. Bobby’s public and private lives, there’s just no way to sort out all the intricacies, and maybe that’s the whole idea – because he obviously isn’t alone.