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City Island (2010) ***

March 18, 2010

Written by: Raymond De Felitta

Produced by: Raymond De Felitta, Andy Garcia, Zachary Matz and Lauren Versel

Directed by: Raymond De Felitta

Rated PG-13 for sexual content, smoking and language

100 min.

U.S. Release Date: March 19, 2010 (limited)

Relative unknown Raymond De Felitta writes, produces and directs in “City Island”, an endearing indie-comedy about a family from the Bronx fishing neighborhood of the same name.  The main players in this story are a family of quirky City Island locals who all have their share of secrets that they keep from each other.  In most films, all of those secrets must interweave to simultaneously come to a head in a dramatic climax.  That, or the film can take your preconceptions and dump them on their head for an unconventional ending, which most would deem “indie”.  Must every film of this nature go one-way or the other?  Can a film possibly achieve both scenarios?  De Felitta’s film certainly gives it a shot, but does it deliver?

Vince Rizzo (Andy Garcia) is a City Island-native who works as a correctional officer at a local prison.  What his family doesn’t know is he is a chain-smoking aspiring actor who is taking acting classes on the sly while his wife Joyce (Julianna Margulies) thinks he is at poker games.  Great cover up, right?  Joyce is also a “non-smoker” who brews up several secrets of her own throughout this story.  Their daughter Vivian (Dominik Garcia-Lorido – Andy Garcia’s real daughter) is their “future college grad”, who actually got kicked out of school over a semester ago and is now a stripper.  Of course, her parents don’t know that.  Vince Jr. (Ezra Miller – the amazing young actor who starred in Antonio Campos’s “Afterschool”) is the Rizzo family’s youngest, a funny teenager with a bizarre fetish.  Vince Jr. loves feeding overweight women, and one of the biggest “overweight woman” website stars happens to be the neighbor across the street.

All of the Rizzo family secrets begin to unravel when Vince brings a convict named Tony Nardella (Steven Strait) home from jail one day.  What Vince knows, that nobody else does, is that Tony is his son from an old fling.  Tony, in his own special ways, acts as the catalyst that sets the hilarity in “City Island” in motion.

I don’t want to give too much of the plot away, but the film puts all of the main characters in funny and awkward situations that totally worked for me.  The entire cast works really well together to create a very believable yet funny family dynamic.  Andy Garcia carries this movie in a way I have not seen from him in at least ten years.  Julianna Margulies completely sells her role as the firecracker take-no-prisoners housewife who seems to strike fear in the entire Rizzo family.  Ezra Miller, who plays an unbelievably dark and heavy role in “Afterschool”, shows a completely different side as maybe the funniest character in the cast.

Overall, “City Island” is a film about secrets we all keep, whether big or small, and how they get in the way of even the closest of relationships.  Entire years, or even decades, can pass by as we intend on telling our loved ones, but the days just keep passing as the secret becomes a bigger and bigger problem.  This movie shows viewers a comical reflection of the secretive lives we all lead, and how these characters bring their secrets into the open air.  Even though most all of the situations in this film have comedic outcomes, though life does not always pan out that way, “City Island” still holds true and stays relatable.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. March 18, 2011 7:35 am

    There’s nothing earth-shatteringly new, but you do end up wishing the characters well, and I was happy to have spent time with them. It’s a good time, and I found myself actually laughing a lot. Good review, check out mine when you can!

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