Set in a quaint fishing community on the outskirts of New York City, City Island is a hilarious and touching tale about a family whose comfortable co-existence is upended by surprising revelations of past secrets and present day lies.
Vince Rizzo (Andy Garcia) is a lifelong resident of the tiny, tradition-steeped Bronx enclave of City Island. A family man who makes his living as a corrections officer, Vince longs to become an actor. Ashamed to admit his aspirations to his family, Vince would rather let his fiery wife Joyce (Julianna Margulies) believe his weekly poker games are a cover for an extramarital affair than admit he’s secretly taking acting classes in Manhattan.
When Vince is asked to reveal his biggest secret in class, he inadvertently sets off a chaotic chain of events that turns his mundane suburban life upside down. Inspired by the exercise, he decides to bring his long-lost ex-con son Tony (Steven Strait) home to meet the family, and it soon becomes clear that everyone—including his college student daughter (Dominik García-Lorido), teenaged son Vinnie, Jr. (Ezra Miller), charismatic acting partner (Emily Mortimer) and drama coach (Alan Arkin)— has something to hide. A perfect storm of deception, half truths and confusion makes Vince and his family members realize that the truth may not set them free, but it is easier to keep track of than all their well-intentioned white lies.
Everyone has their secrets. Even though in many instances, confiding in our family is probably the safest prospect, we often find ourselves wanting our families to be the last people on earth to learn about some things. That's the case with the Rizzo family. They all have something they're hiding. Some secrets are embarrassing, others are life changing, but the clan is being torn apart because none of them will reveal what they're hiding.
Vince Rizzo (Andy Garcia) is a prison guard in New York. His family lives in a little fishing town in the Bronx called City Island. (Editor's Note: Mild spoilers to follow.) Vince is hiding something from his wife and family that he'd rather not discuss. No he's not having an affair, although that's what his wife thinks as he's sneaking around to "poker games" every night. Hardened New Yorker, Vince Rizzo, is dying to become an actor. He spends nights at an acting class, mimicking his hero Marlon Brando. He claims that his wife Joyce (Julianna Marguiles) simply won't understand why he wants to become an actor. She already gives him enough grief that he never finished college. Joyce is still smoking, even though the rest of the family thinks she quit. A funny running gag throughout the film is that everyone in the family smokes, but they don't want anyone knowing that they do.
The Rizzo family has a couple children. Vivian (Dominik García-Lorido) is a stripper and has been expelled from college. Obviously telling her parents that she takes off her clothes for money is out of the question. Perhaps, the funniest and most endearing secret is harbored in their young son Vince Jr. (Ezra Miller). To put it bluntly, Vince Jr. likes fat chicks. There's just no other way to say it. He's got a plus-sized fetish, and watching him try and find the perfect girl online is hilarious.
Secrets build upon secrets in this movie, in clever and humorous ways. I was impressed that 'City Island' didn't stoop to any clichéd misunderstandings. You can see this playing out the exact same way in real-life if your family was as high-strung and as insecure as the Rizzos are.
After Vince brings home a convict from prison, to take care of him, things begin to unravel. The secrets each character is holding begin to reveal themselves, crashing into each other. All of this culminates into an ending you can see coming from a mile away, and yet you're still surprised how it all plays out. What a perfect climax for a movie like this.
'City Island' isn't the perfect family comedy/drama, but it's filled with heart, real emotion, and genuine laughs. Finally, it's great to see Andy Garcia in something where he doesn't drive me crazy with cardboard acting. Everyone here is superb, the writing is quick-witted, and the narration of the plot – weaving in and out of everyone's secrets – is well constructed. 'City Island' is enjoyable on a variety of levels. I've got a secret to confess, I loved it.
For this kind of film (low budget and low key), 'City Island' boasts a nice looking 1080p transfer in a VC-1 encode.
First off, you'll notice that detail is nicely rendered, giving the picture a great sense of depth and dimensionality. A few softer shots persist, normally during wider, scene-setters. Colors are vivid, especially as the camera pans over the colorful seaside village of City Island. Blues and various grays dominate the architecture of the beachfront homes. The shimmering blues of the harbor, jump off the screen. Skin tones are natural looking, even during darker scenes. Blacks are consistent, but never as deep as they could be. Noise is an occasional annoyance as white specks pop up from time to time. Nighttime scenes are, at times, rampant with blips and flecks.
Being a low budget film, I wasn't expecting much from this transfer. Thankfully, detail is well done and so are the wide variety of colors. 'City Island' looks good on Blu-ray. Not demo-quality, but it's a video presentation that you won't find much to complain about.
'City Island' features a Dolby 5.1 PCM soundtrack. Since the movie is very talkative, obviously you will won't to know how the dialogue sounds. I'm glad to say that the dialogue here is superb, with even hushed tones and voices coming through the center channel clearly audible. As expected, there is little to no need for LFE, so the sub woofer stays fairly silent throughout. Also, surrounds leave a little to be desired, as crowded streets and bars fail to give off that surround sound ambiance that is present on truly engrossing tracks.
For what it is, 'City Island' features a serviceable soundtrack that produces clean dialogue, but little else. This isn't a soundtrack that will drag you into its own world, but at least the dialogue sounds nice and clear. That's all that really matters.
'City Island' was a nice surprise. I usually don't find Andy Garcia all that entertaining or even watchable, but he proved me wrong here. When given good material, he can do it. 'City Island' progresses thoughtfully and is full of humor all the way up until the predictable, yet wholly enjoyable ending. Anyone in the mood for a funny drama about the inner-workings of family life should give 'City Island' a rent. I'm only recommending a rental here, because I don't think that the movie really has replay value. It's great the first time around, but I'm not sure it will be something you'll revisit after that.