3 stars (out of four)

It would be hard to get much more personal than moviemaker Kevin Jordan does in "Brooklyn Lobster," based on Jordan's family and their business--a venerable lobster retail operation and restaurant in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn--with characters who resemble himself, his parents and other relatives and friends.

Yet, even though Jordan makes use of an actual family crisis here --the possible loss of the business after their bank collapses --there's no sense of special pleading. Jordan creates fully rounded characters with believable strengths, flaws and moral lapses--none more so than Frank Giorgio, modeled on Jordan's father and beautifully played by Danny Aiello.

Aiello specializes in warm-hearted but bull-headed urban macho characters, such as Sal in "Do the Right Thing," and he's really in his element here. Frank, who inherited Giorgio's Lobster Farm from his father, is bossy, warm, stubborn and fierce. One can understand why wife Maureen (Jane Curtin, in another ace-high performance) insists on leaving him, why he's gotten into trouble with the business and why son Michael (Daniel Sauli) wants to break away. But Aiello imbues the part with so much emotion and paternalistic charm that we tend to forgive Frank. Almost.

Jordan, who made the very likable 1999 L.A. romantic drama "Goat on Fire and Smiling Fish," is a pupil-protege of Martin Scorsese, whose name is on "Brooklyn Lobster" as "presenter." Like his mentor's great Italian-American street dramas and documentaries, Jordan's film is full of life and New York atmosphere. The rest of the cast--including Heather Burns as Michael's girlfriend and Marisa Ryan and Ian Kahn as his sister and brother-in-law--play to a high standard. "Brooklyn Lobster" is the kind of smart, realistic indie family drama the movies should give us more often, just as they should more often offer performances as full-blooded and rich as Aiello's and Curtin's here.

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'Brooklyn Lobster'

Directed and written by Kevin Jordan; photographed by Dave Tumblety; edited by Mako Kamitsuna; production designed by Jesse Nemeth; music by Craig Maher; produced by Jordan, Chris Valentino, Darren Jordan. A Meadowbrook Pictures release; opens Friday at Facets Cinematheque. Running time: 1:30 . Writer-director Kevin Jordan will appear for audience discussion at Friday and Saturday screenings; Facets Cinematheque, 1517 W. Fullerton Ave.; 773-281-4114. No MPAA rating (parents cautioned for language and sexual inferences).

Frank Giorgio - Danny Aiello

Maureen Giorgio - Jane Curtin

Michael Giorgio - Daniel Sauli

Lauren Giorgio-Wallace - Marisa Ryan

Justin Wallace - Ian Kahn

Kerry Miller - Heather Burns