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On the Waterfront

“City Island” is a broad but not unlikable family drama.



It's time for a moratorium on the name Rizzo. There's one in “Midnight Cowboy,” “Grease,” “The Muppets,” the Jerky Boys recordings, and now a family of them in “City Island,” starring Andy Garcia as the head of this squabbling clan of New Yorkers.

Garcia plays Vince, who tells his tale with an accent brinier than the shores of his unusual community, a picturesque portion of the Bronx that looks like Nantucket collided with New Jersey. “The secret of all my secrets,” is what Vince promises, parts of which turn out to be, in succession, a desperate desire to leave his job as a corrections officer for an acting career, and a grown son from another relationship, Tony (Steven Strait), whom Vince has never told anyone about.

Tony is incarcerated at the prison where Vince works. Vince promptly brings him home to meet the family: his wife, Joyce (Julianna Margulies), and their two children (Garcia's real-life daughter Dominik Garcia-Lorido and Ezra Miller), who all have secrets of their own. That there's no grandparent in this clan making wiseacre remarks is almost unbelievable, given the tendency to stock situations by writer and director Raymond De Felitta. There is, however, an Alan Arkin, who suffices as Vince's crusty, fussy, acting instructor.

The surprise is that it all comes together into a sweet-natured, likeable movie. “City Island” isn't the most original, but it offers some laughs and a few moving moments of genuine introspection, especially between Garcia and co-star Emily Mortimer, who plays Vince's acting-class chum.

De Felitta ties everything up too neatly, but it's kind of expected because he's going for a broad, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” type experience. The letdown is that while we get plenty of kooks, we never get a sense of City Island as a place, even in general. It's interesting to hear Vince explain the two types who populate his island, but all we get is a dysfunctional family that could be from anywhere. (PG-13) 100 min. **


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