Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
May 18, 2024

My Cousin Vinny brings back the love and comfort of my yute

By ALEX FORLENZA | November 17, 2020


You know that feeling when you look around Hop and feel incredibly detached from what life was like at home? Then your mind shifts back, and you remember your home friends, your family, your spot on the couch and that one food you love that just doesn’t taste the same in Baltimore (currently missing good pizza). It's a warm nostalgia trip that I think everyone experiences just a little bit. Every once in a while, I really crave that warmth of home, so I find an incredibly legal website to watch movies and throw on My Cousin Vinny

This movie is a staple in every Italian American household I know. The reason is probably Vinny. He is played by Joe Pesci, the uber-violent mobster in Goodfellas and the short robber in Home Alone. But here he plays a quintessential Brooklyn Italian. Vinny argues with everyone and their mother for an hour and a half in a New York Italian accent, which is good because he is serving as a trial lawyer.

Mind you, he only passed the bar six weeks before the trial in which he is trying to get his cousin off murder charges. So the entire trial is Vinny bullshitting and trying to learn how to be a lawyer as he goes — think about how quickly you pull shit out of your ass for an essay due at 11:59 when it’s 11:50. And on top of all this, he’s in the middle of Wazoo, Alabama where they unequivocally love the electric chair. Eventually he does finesse a victory.

It is not a movie you watch for plot, and honestly, I have no idea if it's actually good. I have watched this movie so many times that it has become connected with my idea of home. Anytime we watched the movie we would quote it in conversation the rest of the day. Usually this would be on Sundays because it was the one day of the week my dad didn’t work. So, on Sunday morning he would look through the paper to find the TV schedule (real old-school) to see if My Cousin Vinny was on.

I can vividly remember that feeling of sitting down for dinner, my feet being too short to hit the ground. While I was swinging my feet, I would join in quoting the movie with my parents. And it just so happens that my best friend also grew up in an Italian household and watched My Cousin Vinny growing up. We have quoted the movie to each other too.

When I watch this movie now, I hear the people I love saying the lines, not just the actors. I get that warm feeling watching it. This is really meaningful to me because generally when you get to college, it is the first time you’re living on your own and the first time you really get homesick and can’t go home. For me, it was a more dramatic shift because I first came to college at the same time my dad was dying from cancer. So, for some people, they can still go home and feel a little bit of old childhood warmth. I can’t. Sometimes I find myself forgetting my dad’s face, too. But when I watch this movie, I can still hear his voice, and I can see him sitting at the dining room table.

This year has been really, really, really long. Hopkins is always a lot. We all need a break and a time to find something outside of school that is fun. No, watching Netflix while doing a problem set does not work. I’ve tried, and that becomes a combination of missing out on the show and never understanding probability. But there has to be something we find some happiness in — without spreading the ‘rona. It can’t be going out and partying in the middle of a pandemic. It can’t be going to concerts. It can’t be the usual source of fun. So, what else is there?

For me, it’s old memories (and that I lowkey like Hopkins) that keep me afloat. I find happiness watching a 5-foot-4-inch Italian eventually figure out how to be a lawyer. I laugh every time he walks into court with a magician’s suit and every time the judge puts him in jail for it. I usually hear my dad laughing along with me.

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