I just love City Island, a new movie with Andy Garcia, Julianna Margulies, Emily Mortimer and Alan Arkin. It’s a “dysfunctional family” movie that won’t have you walking out of the theater hating all the characters and grumbling that they didn’t all die horrible deaths.
It’s gentle, amusing, affectionate, funny, sweet without being smarmy, and yet has a thoughtful side too. (well, ok, if you don’t like those kinds of movies, you probably will wish that all the characters died of horrible deaths, so maybe you shouldn’t see it)
I went in not knowing ANYTHING about the movie, other than that it starred Andy Garcia. I hadn’t read a review or seen a trailer or read a synopsis. I saw it as a double-feature (separate admissions) with the dark and creepy After.Life (with Liam Neeson and Christina Ricci, which was really good too) and I had no idea if it was one of those dark depressing movies where there’s abuse and/or incest and/or murder and/or infidelity or whatever. Every time I expected something horrible to happen and that it would take a turn to the dark side, something wonderful and funny usually happened.
After a while I just relaxed and rightly assumed that there weren’t going to be any deep horrible secrets revealed, that nobody would get hurt or killed, and that I probably wouldn’t be walking out of the theater depressed.
I came out with a big smile on my face.
I now want to see it again without all the tension that came from assuming that an indie movie with Andy Garcia just had to go down at least some depressing roads.
Garcia plays Vince Rizzo, a prison guard (or, excuse me, “corrections officer” as he continually reminds people) married to Joyce (played by an unrecognizable Julianna Margulies, seriously, the movie was half over before I realized, hey, that’s Julianna Margulies!). Their college-aged daughter Vivian (played by Garcia’s real-life daughter Dominik García-Lorido) is home for a visit, trying to hide that she got kicked out of college and is now a stripper. Their adolescent son Vince Jr. is discovering both internet porn and a budding fetish (that’s treated with sweetness and tenderness). They all have secrets they keep from each other for, really, no reason at all. They just all figure that no one else would understand.
Vince has 2 secrets. First is that he’s a closet Brando fanatic and actor. He tells his family he’s going to play poker, when in fact he goes to weekly acting classes. Alan Arkin plays his acting teacher and Emily Mortimer plays a fellow acting student, Molly. So, why not just tell Joyce? Because he figures that she wouldn’t understand. It’s not a profession to him, he’s not a professional actor, he just likes the process and learning about it. Things get a bit stickier when he goes on an audition as a whim at Molly’s urging, just to see what that process is like, never in a million years expecting anything to come from it. It turns out to be a casting call for a Scorsese movie, and he gets a call back! Uh oh.
His other secret is that before he met Joyce, he had a brief affair with a (now deceased) woman that resulted in a child. That child, Tony, is now grown and an inmate at Vince’s prison for some crime serious enough to land him in prison, but petty enough to get him a supervised probation, if he had anyone to take responsibility for him. He has no family (that he knows about) so Vince brings him home. Tony thinks his dad is dead, and Vince has to figure out how to not only tell Tony why he ran out on Tony’s mom, but tell his family that there’s a new member too. And that’s just about as dark as the movie gets. Mainly it’s a series of mis-communications and misunderstandings. Gentle hilarity ensues, and, in this movie, family love conquers all, in unexpected and funny ways.
It may not be playing where you live, but if it is, and you’re you’re looking for something enjoyable, it’s worth seeing. If it doesn’t play where you live, seek it out on DVD when it comes out. It’s not for the whole family though. Kids would not get the son’s sexual fetish (many adults will not get the son’s sexual fetish) and I think there’s some language (I can’t remember) and mild sexual situations.