I love films about dysfunctional families. They always leave you feeling as though your own pales in comparison. In the new film “City Island,” Andy Garcia plays the patriarch of the Rizzo family, one in which everyone has something to hide.
City Island is a quaint fishing village in the Bronx, N.Y., inhabited by “clam diggers” (those who’ve lived there for generations) and “mussel suckers” (new blood). The Rizzos are clam diggers and super-sized secret keepers.
Vince (Garcia) is a corrections officer and wannabe actor who lies about attending acting classes, which prompts his wife, Joyce (Julianna Margulies), to suspect he’s having an affair. Daughter Vivian (Dominik Garcia-Lorido, Andy’s real-life progeny) hides the fact that she’s been kicked out of college for smoking pot and is now working as a stripper. Teenage son Vinnie has a fetish for large women, which he feeds by surfing Internet porn sights. And all of the Rizzos are closet cigarette smokers.
Vince takes the prize for harboring the biggest secrets. At work, a new prisoner (Steven Strait) turns out to be the son he fathered before marrying Joyce. In acting class he’s met a woman (Emily Mortimer) with whom he strikes up a relationship — strictly platonic — yet very close. She convinces him to audition for a Scorsese film, and when he lands the part, Vince is forced to start telling the truth.
Director/writer Raymond De Felitta has created a superb slice-of-life flick chock full of chuckles. The film sports dialogue reminiscent of Woody Allen’s back in his heyday. The ensemble of immensely talented actors (did I mention Alan Arkin?) — all perfectly cast — make “City Island” a joy to watch. I was particularly astounded by Garcia’s unexpected flair for comedy. It’s as though he were born to play Vince Rizzo given his seemingly effortless performance.
“City Island” is a crowd-pleaser. Radiating with charm and wit, it will leave you with a smile on your face and, surprisingly, an appreciation for family ties.
— Pam Nadon
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