Cinephiles

‘My Cousin Vinny’

Maddie Kasper

More stories from Maddie Kasper

Student Senate
December 7, 2022
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Vinny Gambini (Joe Pesci) and Mona Lisa Vito (Marisa Tomei) in courtroom comedy “My Cousin Vinny

Editor’s note: this article contains spoilers for “My Cousin Vinny.”

Convertible top down and wind blowing through their hair, Bill Gambini (Ralph Macchio) and Stan Rothenstein (Mitchell Whitfield) are road-tripping through the Deep South to get from New York to California.

Their scenic trip is interrupted when they get arrested for a murder they didn’t do. How will these broke college kids prove their innocence?

Fortunately for them, Bill Gambini’s cousin is a lawyer. Unfortunately for them, his cousin didn’t pass the bar exam until his sixth time and has no trial experience.

My Cousin Vinny” is a light-hearted 1992 courtroom comedy starring Joe Pesci as Vinny Gambini and Marisa Tomei as Mona Lisa Vito.

Newly-minted attorney Vinny Gambini and his fiancee, Vito, arrive in Wazoo, Ala., a fictional town known for its mud but not its Chinese food, to find his cousin has also accidentally confessed to the murder.

With almost no evidence, an overly stern judge, no knowledge of Alabama court procedures and Vinny Gambini’s limited legal experience, this case seems impossible.

Vinny Gambini goes hunting with the prosecutor Jim Trotter III (Lane Smith) in an attempt to finesse evidence out of him, because he was unaware that Trotter has to disclose all evidence to the defense. 

At this point, Vinny Gambini starts building his case to prove the boys didn’t murder the convenience store clerk at Sac-o-Suds.

The trial begins and Vinny Gambini successfully cross-examines Trotter’s eye-witness and proves that it is not possible for the boys to have been the murderers or for their car to have made the tire marks in front of the convenience store.

The turning point of this movie is when Vinny Gambini finally asks Vito for help and puts her on the stand to counter the prosecutor’s expert witness with her unexpected automobile expertise.

Even if you’re not interested in watching this entire two-hour-long movie, you should watch the clip of Vito’s testimony where Tomei’s acting skills shine, and the trial begins to tip in Vinny Gambini’s favor.

Vito’s style on the stand and throughout the whole movie is enough of a reason to watch. From the sparkly purple cocktail dress she wears on the stand, to the floral open-back jumpsuit, every outfit of hers is a showstopper.

Vinny Gambini also has some interesting courtroom outfits. The judge is not a fan of his leather blazer (but I am) and his only formal suit gets dropped in the mud, so he ends up wearing an eccentric maroon suit that looks like it should have been worn to a prom in the 1980s.

Like many popular pieces of media, this movie is not free from controversy.

At the 65th Academy Awards in 1993, Tomei won Best Supporting Actress for her role in “My Cousin Vinny,” but it was speculated that she won the award by mistake. 

According to Entertainment Weekly, award presenter Jack Palance was allegedly intoxicated and read Tomei’s name by accident. 

I believe not only that Tomei deserved her Oscar, but that “My Cousin Vinny” would not be as entertaining of a movie without her spectacular delivery of Vito.

Although some of the jokes are expected and would not be considered high brow (or low brow), “My Cousin Vinny” is one of my favorite movies and I even have the movie poster hanging in my dorm room.

If you’re not enjoying the goriness or insensitivity to victims and their families in the new Jeffrey Dahmer series, then maybe watch this courtroom comedy instead.

You can watch “My Cousin Vinny” on HBO Max, Apple TV and Prime Video.

Kasper can be reached at [email protected]