By: Mark Di Stefano
Rating: 9 out of 10
Raymond De Felitta, the writer and director of City Island, brought his film to the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival, where it garnered praise to receive the First Place Audience Award. It was released nationwide earlier in 2010, and released recently on DVD.
City Island tells the story of a family that lives in City Island, located in the Bronx. One of the main reasons why the film works is that it takes a very fresh look at a part of the Bronx not commonly known to the public.
The story takes place on a family that can depend on each other for anything, except to tell the truth. Vince Rizzo (Andy Garcia) is a corrections officer at a prison, and when a new batch if inmates arrive, he discovers that one of them is his illegitimate son Tony (Steven Strait), whom he has never met before in his life. Without revealing their connection, Vince takes Tony under his wing to do some work around the house, and to meet his very dysfunctional family.
Not everything is seen on the surface, for each member of the family is not being completely honest. Vince’s wife Joyce (a hilarious Julianna Margulies) smokes without Vince knowing. Their youngest son (Ezra miller) has a secret fetish for porn featuring obese women. Their daughter (Dominik Garcia-Lorido) dropped out of college and strips for money without anyone else knowing. On type of his illegitimate son, he secretly aspires to be an actor, and goes to acting workshops without anyone else knowing about it. This family is clearly dysfunctional. How the family members discovers each one’s secrets, and how it all ends, is definitely worth the experience.
The ensemble is great, one of the best on screen casts of the year in my opinion. Each actor brings their top game and they all work together wonderfully. The on-screen connection between Garcia and Margulies is heartfelt and funny. Speaking of funny, both of the actors turn out to be really, really funny, breaking apart from their dramatic roots. Emily Mortimer (who plays Molly, another aspiring actor who befriends Vince) connects wonderfully with Garcia. Both of their characters relate to one another and with just enough charm and humor, Mortimer proves once again why she’s the best at what she does. Alan Arkin makes a small appearance as Vince and Molly’s acting coach, but he’s funny enough so that the audience will remember him when the film’s over.
With the great writing and direction of Raymond De Felitta, along with the great ensemble and location, the film works. Although it was its theatrical run was limited and not publicized enough, this film is a wonderful gem to check out in the comfort of your own home.