Tuesday 5 April 2011


Out now on DVD is Andy Garcia's pet project family drama. Watch the trailer and read my review, next...

Raising his family in the small fishing town of City Island, Correctional Officer Vince Rizzo's (Andy Garcia) lifetime ambition has been to be an actor, so he secretly sneaks off to acting classes when he tells his wife (Julianna Margulies) he's playing poker. When Vince is reunited with his illegitimate, jailbird son (Steven Strait), he decides to take him home to meet his family under the guise of an old friend's son, keeping his real relationship a secret. Vince's family must soon adapt to having a new man around the house, but also deal with their own personal problems that could potentially upset their image as the perfect family.

As you'd expect from a film that's produced by Andy Garcia and starring him and his daughter, this is pretty much the Andy Garcia show. His Vince Rizzo is a charmingly clueless father, caring but with no idea about what's going on in his children's lives. It's this emotional distance which leads his wife to believe he's having an affair, when in actual fact he's merely sneaking off to take part in acting classes and attend auditions. He may not be sleeping with anyone else but he's still lying to his wife and children, a conflict that's never fully explored.

Like an alternate version of The Kids Are All Right or Me and You and Everyone We Know, City Island is another light and fluffy family drama where you know everything's going to be okay because there's nothing really at stake. That's not necessarily a criticism as I had a perfectly nice time watching it, but there's no real weight behind its subject matters. There's a modern neologistic word 'dramedy', created from splicing comedy and drama together. If that word ever makes it into the dictionary they may well put a photo of City Island next to it.

All the family members are going through their own personal crises, ranging from his daughter Vivian (Dominik Garcia-Lorido, Andy Garcia's real daughter) taking a job as a stripper when she gets kicked out of College, to his smart-mouth son Vince Jr (Ezra Miller, soon to be seen in Lynne Ramsay's We Need To Talk About About Kevin) gaining some interesting tastes in rather fetishistic pornography that involves the chunky lady from across the road. From the supporting cast, Emily Mortimer makes for a sweet confidant to Vince's brash, Brando aping wannabe actor, guiding him through the audition process and his mid-life crisis. 

City Island seems to be a lovely suburb of New York, but not enough is made of the film's unique location. I wasn't quite expecting American Beauty meets Copland, but apart from some attractive vistas the location isn't used to its best potential. Not all of the character's stories work (the son's fat fetish gets wisely sidelined), but it all comes together to create an effective but flimsy family 'dramedy'. Not the most memorable film you'll see this year, but still enjoyable, throwaway stuff that's worth a watch.


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