City Island (2010) – Movie Review

City Island, which premiered at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, is a surprisingly poignant black comedy about a loving New York family on the brink of collapse.  Directed by Raymond de Felitta, and starring Andy Garcia, Julianne Margulies and a well-cast ensemble as the Rizzo family, City Island may well be the summer’s best and most relatable film.

The movie, expectedly, takes place on City Island, where the Rizzo family, a very Bronx-ian clan of clamdiggers (the town’s term for generations-long natives) resides.  Their town, as patriarch Vince (Andy Garcia) lovingly explains, is an island haven amidst the workaday bustle of the Bronx.  Like the contradiction that is an isle within a metropolis, the Rizzo family is an oasis of familial love amidst the chaos of a family at the height of dysfunction.  The Rizzos are, by nature, a traditional family, and Vince can’t figure out why he and his wife are drifting apart and his children hardly seem to be his.  Vince, a prison guard, also has a secret ambition of becoming an actor in the footsteps of his hero, Marlon Brando.  When Vince invites a mysterious young prisoner to live out his parole with the Rizzo family, a whole slew of secrets, lies and a few sneaked cigarettes push the family to all but fold in on itself.

Though the dysfunctional family angle is nothing new in movies and their ever-worsening circumstances seem somewhat contrived, the relatability and charm of the crazier-than-thou Rizzo family makes this movie great.  Each Rizzo has, aside from a brash New York twang and a Bronx swagger, a secret of their own. There’s Vince Jr. (Ezra Miller), who squanders his smarts on internet porn; the college-girl daughter (Dominik Garcia-Lorido), whose nighttime activities are less than venerable, and Vince’s wife (Julianne Margulies), who nurses a surreptitious crush on the handsome new addition to the family, whose precise identity may reveal a long-kept secret scandal. 

As the Rizzos become more and more entangled in their convoluted web of deceit, the truth, of course, begins to unravel.  The Rizzos prove that even the best-kept secrets come to light, and can perhaps bring together the lives that were otherwise up in smoke.