Wednesday, August 25, 2010

City Island: Movie Review

A dysfunctional family dramedy in all its glory.

The film City Island is set in City Island, a small fishing community in the Bronx, New York. It’s one of these small communities where everybody knows everybody and everybody knows every secret. At the center of the film is the Italian-American Rizzo family, who all have their own secrets. These secrets don't so much as tear them apart but keep them angry and on edge. The good thing is, it's not nearly as dark as it sounds, it's a comedy too. 2009

Directed by: Raymond De Felitta

Screenplay by: Raymond De Felitta

Starring: Andy Garcia, Julianna Margulies

One of the first things that stand out is the casting. Andy Garcia is masterful as Vincent Russo a phlegmatic corrections officer by day, acting student by night; Emily Mortimer is charming as his fellow actor; Steven Strait is enigmatic as the bewildered prison inmate brought home to his family; Dominik Garcia-Lorido (Andy Garcia’s real-life daughter) is captivating as his pole-dancing daughter; Julianna Margulies is forceful as his maligned wife; and young Ezra Miller, his son with a bizarre but benign sex fetish, delivered his comedic lines with a seasoned ascorbic tongue.

The insanity all begins when Vincent brings convict Tony home to live with his family, essentially as his new son, for no discernible reason. Not surprisingly at all, the family is not thrilled by this move. And remember, every description of the characters above are all secrets. A family that can be loud and boisterous and the best of times, can be very loud and angry at the worst times.

A film featuring a yelling family angry about somebody else’s secret while harbouring their own is generally not that pleasant of a watch, but writer and director Raymond De Felitta deftly maneuvers through the family melodrama and expertly mixes in some comedy – comedy with heart. The characters actions, while extreme, are genuine and come from an honest place with real emotions. It’s a bizarre mix of family hostility, over-the-top humour, and with a set-up that is interesting enough to keep us watching to the resolution, hopefully one that is quieter.

It definitely fits into the dysfunctional family dramedy genre. The comedy at times is non sequitur and is too weird to be funny, but when it's sweet and honest, it's quite cute. City Island is good, above average for its genre, and you just have to be able to withstand family arguments in the Bronx accent to be able to make it through.