REVIEW: City Island

18 01 2011

There have been plenty of dysfunctional family movies inundating movie theaters in recent memory, both of the dramatic and comedic variety.  “City Island” is of the latter type, which often tend to be more cliched and forgettable.  While I hate to make the claim that this is some fantastic entry into the genre that will forever stick out in my mind, it did make for one really great watch that I thoroughly enjoyed.

It’s nothing highly original, but the movie is presented with enough panache for it to be entirely excusable.  The weapon of choice in writer/director Raymond De Felitta’s arsenal is dramatic irony, or for those of you rusty on your literary terms, the art of the secret.  Everyone in the Rizzo family is guarding one closely, and it mediates their interactions with all the other family members.

Patriarch Vince (Andy Garcia) works as a prison guard but is an aspiring actor attending classes without his wife’s knowledge.  Mother Joyce (Julianne Marguiles) has lost all feelings of affection in her marriage and seeks outlets for her disillusionment.  Daughter Vivianne has become a stripper.  Son Vince Jr. has a fetish for obese women.  And then there’s the strange houseguest Tony (Steven Strait), who Vince brings home from the slammer without telling his family that it’s his illegitimate son from a past relationship.

We know the Rizzo family’s business, but they have no idea what’s going on with each other.  The movie is crafted carefully to bring revelation upon revelation until it all boils down to one heck of a comedic climax where all comes out into the open.  You can see the scene coming from a mile away, yet it’s still exciting and hilarious to watch.  The climax represents “City Island” in a nutshell: predictable but fun against all odds.  B+


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