Film review – City Island (2009)

City Island: Joyce and Vince Rizzo (Julianna Margulies and Andy Garcia)
Joyce and Vince Rizzo (Julianna Margulies and Andy Garcia)

The Rizzos are an Italian-American family living in the Bronx neighbourhood City Island. As with most families who feature in American independent films, the Rizzos are completely dysfunctional. Every family member has a secret to hide but husband/father/prison guard/wannabe actor Vince has the biggest secret of all, in the form of a long lost son.

As Vince Rizzo, Andy Garcia delivers his finest performance in a very long time with some of his best acting in a scene where Vince is attempting to act while auditioning for a gangster film. As Joyce, Vince’s wife, Julianna Margulies brings the right degree of fire to match his volatility and Emily Mortimer is lovely as his empathetic friend from acting school. The only real downside of the film is a subplot about Vince’s obnoxious smart-ass teenage son having a fetish for watching large women eat. Such an idea may work in something directed by Todd Solondz (Happiness) but here it just detracts from an otherwise enjoyable film.

Unlike so many American Beauty-type films about the stressed lives of families living in suburbia, City Island contains a lot of warmth and good humour making it an unexpected delight.

Originally appeared in The Big Issue, No. 355, 2010

© Thomas Caldwell, 2010

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