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City Island
UKScreen Rating:

City Island – Review

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

Vince Rizzo (Andy Garcia) is a prison guard in Long Island, New York, returning home each night to his wife Joyce (Julianna Margulies), and teenaged kids Vince Junior (Ezra Miller) and Vivian (Dominik García-Lorido).

As with any other typical family, Vince and his children have big secrets – he’s secretly taking acting lessons in the city, too ashamed to admit that what he really wants to do is act – while his son has a fetish for obese women and his daughter is earning a living as a stripper, having been kicked out of college.

When Vince recognises a new inmate as his estranged son Tony (Steven Strait), pangs of guilt persuade him to get him paroled on the condition that he lives with him. He makes him live in the garden shed and work as a handyman, without telling the rest of the family who he really is.

Tony persuades Vince to pursue his acting and with further encouragement from his class-mate Molly (Emily Mortimer), all the secrets begin to unravel, creating the kind of familial chaos rarely seen outside independent American cinema.

WHAT’S IT LIKE?

This film shouldn’t work anything like as well as it does.
The character arcs – almost without exception – have been seen time and time again. The characters themselves are all caricatures – from the butch prison guard who’s a sensitive actor deep down, to the criminal with the wisdom of Solomon to the prim daughter working the sex club and so on.
You can see most of the major plot points coming a mile off.

But oddly, all the parts seem to slot together particularly well and the performances are charming while the script is littered with delightful one-liners and believable familial humour. Garcia, Margulies and Miller are particularly impressive.

City Island – like many similar communities we’ve seen in such independent American movies – is the kind of community where the butch men would rather their independent, sassy wives would suspect them of having an affair than know that they’re really prancing around on stage. It’s the kind of place where it’s easier to have secrets than share your feelings.

There is little that feels original in what is, in truth, a small film. There are a few areas where the clichés are pushed too far or where the twisted plot points don’t meet up quite as elegantly as they’d like.
But it’s ultimately a warm comic family drama in which the adults do more coming-of-age than their children.

Similar in ambition to the recent Lymelife, this has a lighter touch, that will leave you feeling good about the world – if you can handle the cheesy, over-the-top denouement that, as the genre requires, brings together pretty much every character in the film in the same place at the same time for a lot of shouting, crying, misunderstanding, explaining, laughing and ultimately hugging.

Opens nationwide on 23rd July 2010

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