The Austin Chronicle

City Island

Rated PG-13, 103 min. Directed by Raymond De Felitta. Starring Andy Garcia, Julianna Margulies, Steven Strait, Dominik García-Lorido, Ezra Miller, Emily Mortimer, Alan Arkin.

REVIEWED By Kimberley Jones, Fri., April 16, 2010

This manic family comedy aims to be a sort of opéra bouffe sung in the key of the Bronx – well, City Island, to be exact, a tiny, scenic fishing village almost improbably plunked down in New York's uppermost borough. Garcia, who also produced, plays Vince Rizzo, a prison guard who secretly wants to be an actor; he reads Brando biographies in the bathroom and attends acting classes in the city under the cover of poker night with the boys. His haranguing wife, Joyce (Margulies, ear-bleedingly shrill), suspects an affair but won't come out and say it, a quality that runs in the family: Daughter Vivian (García-Lorido) got kicked out of school but isn't telling, teenage son Vince Jr. (Miller) squirrels away in his room to cruise the Web for fat-lady porn, and everyone, it appears, is secretly a smoker. All of these deceptions read like tiny peccadillos, though, when compared to the whopper of a lie Vince brings home to dinner one day, packaged in the scruffy, tatted frame of Tony (Strait), an ex-con in whom Vince has taken an especial interest. As a comedy of errors, City Island expends a lot of energy spinning the action ever zanier and zanier, to no great benefit – like a dog circling its tail to the point of exhaustion. (The inclusion of excerpts of Bizet’s Carmen only makes it feel more tired.) And the filmmaking at times can be terribly clunky: Scenes are distractingly chopped, and a grainy, poorly lit nighttime scene on a bridge looks like an underfunded student film. But when writer/director De Felitta dials it down, he shows strains of the same compassion, warmth, and sensitivity to the complexities of family that distinguished his lovely first feature, 2000's Two Family House. City Island is far inferior to that film, but still, it has a basic goodness of heart that counteracts, if not entirely cancels out, the film's broadness and busyness.

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