Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

We are going to spend some quality time on this little known subset of the Bronx, New York, known as ‘City Island’ with the Rizzo Family. The Rizzo family has communication issues. In a way. This is one of the charms of writer / director Raymond D. Felitta’s film ‘City Island’, a movie that has charm to burn, in that the Rizzo’s have no problem saying just about anything to each other, as long as that anything is a personal attack and manages to avoid the truth. But underneath it all they still love each other.

Vince (Andy Garcia) is the patriarch and by day is a correctional officer, but by night he harbors dreams of being the next Marlon Brando and pursues his dream of acting by taking acting classes. Vince keeps this desire of his a secret from his lovely wife Joyce (Julianna Margulies) because quite honestly the woman is vicious and frightening. Oldest daughter Vivian (Dominik Garcia-Lorido) has been booted out of college and is working on the sly as a stripper and young son young son Vince Jr. (Ezra Miller) is completely disrespectful, skips school and has a fat chick fetish. Now we must take umbrage at the words ‘fat chick’ and ‘fetish’ being used together. Why can’t it just be a preference? If some gentlemen prefer blondes they don’t call it a ‘fetish’, it’s just a preference. Addicted to feet… stockings… asphyxiation… those are fetishes. Just standing up for my big beautiful’s out there is all.

Vince’s biggest secret is yet to come. In an acting class assignment he tells his lovely British born class partner Molly (Emily Mortimer) this secret of his, one which involves an inmate at his facility named Tony (Steven Strait). To rectify a past wrong Vince has Tony, a nice young man who just steals the occasional car and holds up a liquor store here and there, released to his custody which goes over just swimmingly with his scary wife, but they make the most of it. After spending some quality time with the Rizzo’s Tony will begin to miss prison.

While all of that sounds a little chaotic the real chaos has only just begun. Vince goes on an acting audition which complicates things considerably. His wife thinks he’s having a sexual affair, the young muscular handsome dude walking around with his shirt off is having his own effect on the wife and vice versa, the daughter’s stripping secret is on the verge of being exposed and the young son with the love of overweight women has found the overweight woman of his wet dreams. Even Molly has a secret she’s hiding from us. All of this chaos will eventually come to a head on a street in the sleepy town of City island.

What a wonderful, wonderful little movie this turned out be. At least to me. First let’s get out of the way as to what could possibly and understandably open this movie to ridicule. Would parents such as the Rizzo’s accept behavior such as the kind we got from Vince Jr. in this movie? I don’t think so. Should a married man, one who allegedly loves his wife to death and knows this woman pretty well, go out on intimate evenings with drink and stimulating conversation with a lovely dark eyed British lass? No matter how platonic these evenings might be? Of course not. As an old married man well past my prime I know I wouldn’t have a young, fit, shirtless male model walking around my house unsupervised, no matter how much trust there was in the relationship. To that end would an average man, one who has been in prison for a stretch, after making out with someone who looks like Julianne Margulies for a good fifteen or so minutes actually stop her from unbuckling those pants? Nah, I don’t think an average man would do that. Guilt and Regret always work better after the fact. That’s what Guilt and Regret are for. And does this movie with all this conflict and strife end far too sweetly and neatly? Yes it does. And if had ended any other way I would’ve been upset.

Now once we set aside that we aren’t watching a real life hard hitting social drama on the pitfalls of the dysfunctional family and just sit back and watch these actors work within the ridiculousness that is the Rizzo family, there is a lot of fun to be had. Sit down and enjoy dinner with the Rizzo’s as the dialog pops and sizzles and coming out of the mouths of these actors sounds completely authentic. Tag along with Vince as he goes on his acting audition. Seriously, that alone is worth the price of admission. Watch young Vivian work that pole, with her brand new boobs, while her new housemate with the rap sheet looks on in horror. Even though I’m fairly convinced the fake boob things is a script element since I do believe Vivian is actually working with original equipment over there. Enjoy the simple brilliance that is Emily Mortimer. If there was a legitimate problem I had with this movie it would be that Mortimer and Garcia had too much chemistry together.

So while ‘City Island’ might not have been a life altering experience, man, it sure was a great way to spend ninety plus minutes of my time. When I want hard hitting reality, I watch ‘The Wire’. But for a little comedy, a little insanity and a little melodrama all wrapped up nice and neat in a cute box with red bow, yeah, this was a good story to spend to some quality time with.

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