Review: “City Island”

Dysfunction is all the more poignant when it hits close to home.

Quirky and dark, “City Island” feels sincere through and through.
PHOTO COURTESY CINESON ENTERTAINMENT

Quirky and dark, “City Island” feels sincere through and through. PHOTO COURTESY CINESON ENTERTAINMENT

Tony Libera

âÄúCity IslandâÄù DIRECTED BY: Raymond De Felitta STARRING: Andy Garcia, Julianna Margulies, Emily Mortimer. RATED: PG-13 SHOWING AT: Landmark Lagoon ThereâÄôs no genre more adept at wiggling into the popular consciousness than the quirky familial drama. Mainstream moviegoers generally cringe at offbeat characters, but âÄî as was the case with âÄúLittle Miss SunshineâÄù âÄî theyâÄôll happily stomach eccentricity if itâÄôs founded on the family unit. While âÄúCity IslandâÄù falls short of the âÄúSunshineâÄù standard, itâÄôs relatable, charming and funny enough to appeal to a wider audience. The film centers on the lovable Rizzo family, a group as deceptive as they are farcical. Vince, the patriarch, works as a corrections officer by day and takes acting lessons at night, unbeknownst to his wife. She assumes his weekly poker games are a front for infidelity, but VinceâÄôs acting success, along with the arrival of his long lost son, cause the rickety house of cards to collapse. The plot of âÄúCity IslandâÄù is zany even by indie standards, but the characters react to the insanity in novel ways. As their world crumbles into the ridiculous, they maintain their depth and nuance, balancing absurdity with poignancy and making telegraphed plot points much more bearable. This isnâÄôt the first time that writer-director Raymond De Felitta has tackled domestic dysfunction, so heâÄôs fully aware that success depends on solid characterization. While heâÄôs penned an intricate script, itâÄôs clear De Felitta also gives his actors room to work. And work they do. The success of âÄúCity IslandâÄù is largely attributable to first-rate acting throughout the film. Julianna Margulies plays VinceâÄôs love-starved better half, bringing a unique tenderness to what could have been a stereotypical role. Steven Strait shows surprising talent despite being unnecessarily Jacob-ed for almost the entire movie (which is to say shirtless). Relative unknown Ezra Miller shows a strong set of comedic chops, chasing chubby women and provoking his father with dead-on verbal jabs. Emily Mortimer plays both bubbly and broken to a T, while Alan Arkin manages to nail the role of VinceâÄôs acting coach, all while retaining his quintessential Arkin gusto. The star of the show, however, is Andy Garcia, who strays from his perfected mobster machismo for a performance of everyman vitality. His fatherly reactions are spot on and his humbleness when auditioning is completely sincere. But most impressive of all is the fact that he made himself, the badass Andy Garcia, seem delicate. âÄúCity IslandâÄù may not be the most plausible of family dramas, but itâÄôs grounded by characters that are wholly endearing. The quirks here are more disgraceful than those in âÄúSunshine,âÄù but when they come up for air, laughter ensues. 3.5/5 Stars