City Island (2010)

Content by Tony Macklin. Originally published on May 14, 2010 @ tonymacklin.net.

In City Island, actor Andy Garcia reveals a range and humanity he's seldom, if ever, exhibited.

Usually Garcia is a bit mannered as an actor, but as New York Corrections Officer Vince Rizzo, he gives what well may be his best performance. He's forceful, vulnerable, funny, and engaging as the head of a family that is bursting at its seams with secrets.

It's a deft human performance.

For most of its 100 minutes, City Island is smart entertainment. The characters are involving, and the dialogue has snap. It's a film that alludes to the movie The Fugitive Kind and quotes Ogden Nash.

City Island is the story of Vince Rizzo (Garcia), his wife Joyce (Julianna Margulies), their college-age daughter Vivian (Dominik Garcia-Lorida), and younger son (Ezra Miller). The Rizzos bicker and squabble. Each member has minor and major secrets.

Also into Vince's life come a young prisoner Tony Nardella (Steven Strait) and an aspiring actress Molly (Emily Mortimer), who add to his secrets and teach him useful lessons.

One of Vince's secrets is that he wants to be an actor and clandestinely is taking an acting class, while his family thinks he is playing poker. The scenes about acting have convincing verisimilitude. Alan Arkin, who plays the teacher of a drama class, has a funny speech about "pauses" in delivering dialogue.

There also is a hilarious bit of Vince trying to do an impression of Marlon Brando at a casting call.

Writer/director Raymond De Felitta gives his talented cast some good lines and nice bits of business in his personal film. What makes City Island even more personal for Andy Garcia is that his actual daughter Dominik Garcia-Lorida plays his daughter in the film.

Julianna Margulies (tv's The Good Wife) has to hector a bit much, but is substantial as Vince's wife. Steven Strait is amiable as the hunky, former prisoner. As always, Emily Mortimer is very appealing as the actress with a heavy secret.

De Felitta worked developing his film for a long time, and it may have caused him to commercialize the conclusion. Most of City Island is unique and creative, but the ending is diluted and pat.

For most of its length, City Island is like a balloon that soars and darts, but at the end the helium escapes, and the balloon goes kaput. De Felitta loses his nerve.

City Island ends like a sitcom -- Everybody Loves Vince -- with everything tied together. Even Molly is sent down the path of conformity. While most of the movie has originality and authenticity, the end is hokey.

Before the ending falters, City Island has a personal, enjoyable verve.

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