Studio: Anchor Bay Entertainment
Cast: Andy Garcia, Julianna Margulies, Alan Arkin, Emily Mortimer, Raymond De Felitta, Steven Strait, Dominik Garcia-Lorido, Ezra Miller
Director: Raymond De Felitta
Release Date: August 31, 2010, 5:00 am
Rating: PG-13 for (sexual content, smoking and language)
Run Time: 01h:43m:48s
ìIn short, the world can be divided between clam diggers and mussel suckers, those who stay and those who wander.î - Vince Rizzo (Andy Garcia)
Movie Grade: B+
DVD Grade: B+
Clones of the Best Picture Oscar-winning film American Beauty arenít exactly hard to find these days. Many films have borrowed that modern classicís formula of disgruntled family + enticing and attractive new neighbor/outsider = indie movie magic; often with mixed, at best, results. The latest foray into Sam Mendes-ish territory is 2009ís City Island, a look at a modern day family from the Bronx from director Raymond De Felitta (The Thing About My Folks). This film certainly attempts to capture some of the similar, aforementioned magic during its first half-hour or so, but once it finds its footing, it becomes a wonderfully picture that just might have you wiping your eyes near its conclusion.
Vince Rizzo (Andy Garcia) is a prison guard, although heíd be the first to tell you that heíd rather be referred to as a ìcorrectional officer.î What heíd really rather be referred to, however, is as an actor. Vince is secretly taking an acting class, taking things to the point where Vince would rather have his gorgeous wife, Joyce (Julianna Margulies, continuing to age more than gracefully) believe that heís having an affair than learning to act. She eventually believes heís having that affair with fellow aspiring actor, Molly (Emily Mortimer), and the two do become very close in a very short amount of time. Further complicating Vinceís life is his discovery that one of the inmates heís in charge of guarding is a much closer part of his life than he could ever imagine. He takes this inmate, Tony Nardella (Steven Strait), home with him, and his interaction with not only Joyce, but with their kids, Vince Jr. (Ezra Miller) and Vivian (Dominik Garcia-Lorido) takes Vinceís life in even more interesting directions.
City Island is one of those all-too plentiful indie movies that can be an instant turn-off. The tone and overall look of the film just doesnít feel right from the moment the opening credits appear. Usually, this spells instant doom and an audiencesí decision to stop the movie one that is more than warranted. In this case, though, staying with City Island reaps huge dividends, as director De Felitta does a fine job of eventually settling things down, and crafting a nice pace that allows us to fully connect with a great group of characters. Thereís one sequence, in particular, where things really come together, and itís almost ballet-like in its execution thanks to an effortless fluidity that De Felitta employs as he cuts from one conversation to another in totally different parts of the city. These aforementioned ìcutsî are hardly noticeable, which is attributed more to these totally engrossing conversations than it is to anything that was done in the editing room.
Of course, it certainly helps a director when he has a stellar cast to work with. Thatís certainly the case here, and it begins with leading man Andy Garcia. Garcia is simply better than heís been in years, never forcing the issue and making us care about Vince from the get-go. Heís helped by a stellar group of supporting actors that are powered by the great Julianna Margulies, whom Iíve personally gone from avoiding her work at all costs to going out of my way to see everything sheís in. Everything is genuine from Margulies, which hasnít always been the case but is extremely evident here. Still, as in every film she appears in, the incomparable Emily Mortimer steals every scene sheís in, and in City Island she is arguably the glue that holds this story together. Mortimer is a natural beauty, but is never too flashy, making her the perfect actor to play Molly, and is reason enough to see City Island. Anchor Bayís DVD is another reason to check the flick out, as theyíve presented it with excellent audio and video transfers and some nice extras that include a sit-down with the cast and a lengthy deleted scenes collection.
Chuck Aliaga August 31, 2010, 5:00 am