The Flick Chicks

Judy Thorburn's Movie Reviews

City Island

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City Island

As someone who grew up in the New York City borough of The Bronx, I am very familiar with the quaint fishing village known as City Island which is considered part of the Bronx, although you would never think so because of its completely different atmosphere that sets itself apart and seems like it belongs on the coast of New England. I have fond memories of it being one of my favorite date destinations, because City Island was an inviting getaway from the rat race of the city. So, unlike other film critics who have either never heard of City Island or visited that area of the Bronx, while watching the film, I felt a personal, warm connection to the locale.

The unique,small, Bronx enclave is the backdrop for this engaging comedy that focuses on an Italian family that reside there. Regardless of their loud outbursts and fighting, there is no doubt they love each other. But like most families, they are dysfunctional. For the Rizzo clan, secrets, lies and deceptions are part of their every day family interactions.

Andy Garcia, who co-produced the film, portrays, the family patriarch, Vince, a life long resident of City Island (he has the distinction of being a“clam digger” as opposed to the area's new or temporary inhabitants, which are called "mussel-suckers”).  He makes a living as a prison guard, (yet insists being called “corrections officer”), but dreams of being an actor. His fiery wife Joyce (underrated actress, Juliana Margolies) has no idea of his ambition. Vince would rather have her believe he is attending a weekly poker game in the city rather than telling her the truth about going to an acting class led by coach Michael Malakov (Alan Arkin in a small role). Nevertheless, she thinks he is having an affair. But, he isn't the only one hiding something. Joyce still smokes although her family believes she gave it up. Their teenage children have their own secrets. Smart ass, wisecracking, son Vince Jr. (Ezra Miller) is attracted to fat - let's be real- obese women, and wants to feed them. In a convenient turn, he discovers one of the big beautiful women he downloaded on the internet just happens to be his next door neighbor (stage actress Carrie Baker Reynolds, making her big screen debut).

Meanwhile,Vince Jr's big sister, Vivian (Dominik García-Lorido, Andy's real life daughter), unbeknownst to her family, has dropped out of college and is working as a stripper. Even Vince's fellow acting student, Molly (Emily Mortimer), who becomes the one person he is able to confide in (its a purely platonic relationship) has a deep dark secret that eventually is revealed.

If that isn't enough, Vince is carrying around the biggest secret of them all, the fact that while at work at the correction facility, he came in contact with his illegitimate son Tony (Steven Strait) that he had never met from a past teen fling years before he hooked up with Joyce. Tony had been doing time for car theft and when it is time for parole, Vince decides to take Tony home where he will earn his due by working in the shed. The problem is, Vince hasn't told anyone, including Tony, that he is Tony's dad. To make matters worse, the hot looking, often bare chested Tony can't help but cause further complications involving the females of the house. One thing leads to another, and after misunderstandings and the culmination of a hilarious twist of events, everyone's secrets are finally confessed.

City Island was the winner of the Audience Award at the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival. I can understand why. New York writer/director Raymond De Felitta (Two Family House) delivers a charming little story filled with warmth and heart and excellent performances from the entire ensemble cast that have you actually caring about each character. You can't help but get caught up in this story that plays out as a comedy of errors.

Garcia, who is known primarily as a dramatic actor shows off his gift for comedy, especially in the very funny scene which involves his audition for a role in a Martin Scorcese movie. And the loud family bickering at the dinner table are so down to earth, believable and with convincing dialogue, you would swear you were eavesdropping in on a real life New York family. Trust me, I should know. I also know a Bronx accent when I hear one. Garcia tries his best to sound like a Bronx native, but he doesn't quite pull it off, nor does any of the other actors. Be that as it may, it doesn't factor in my opinion of this very likeable film.

City Island, the movie has lots in common with its namesake. Truth be told, both are worthy of a visit and neither will leave you disappointed. Take it from this displaced Bronxite... that's no lie.