City Island
dir-scr Raymond De Felitta
prd Raymond De Felitta, Andy Garcia, Zachary Matz, Lauren Versel
with Andy Garcia, Julianna Margulies, Steven Strait, Emily Mortimer, Ezra Miller, Dominik Garcia-Lorido, Alan Arkin, Carrie Baker Reynolds, Hope Glendon-Ross, Jee Young Han, Sharon Angela, Curtiss Cook
release US 19.Mar.10, UK 23.Jul.10
09/US 1h44
City Island
Acting lessons: Mortimer and Garcia

margulies strait arkin
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
City Island This drama feels a little contrived due to the sheer number of issues faced by one family over a short period of time. But it's so refreshingly well-acted, with lively characters and some fairly outrageous situations, that it keeps us fully engaged.

Vince and Joyce (Garcia and Margulies) have a tempestuous but loving marriage, even though Vince has a couple of very big secrets. But then so do their son and daughter (Miller and Garcia-Lorido). First up is the fact that Vince has an adult son from an earlier relationship, Tony (Strait), whom he invites to live with the family without telling anyone who Tony really is. Including Tony. Vince is also secretly taking acting lessons, and a fellow student (Mortimer) encourages him to go for a big audition. Which might be one secret too many.

Adding to the film's texture is the fact that this feisty family lives on City Island, a former fishing village that's like a bit of old world New England in the middle of New York City. Once we have seen how short Joyce's temper is, we kind of understand why Vince has grown into the habit of hiding the truth from her. And why their children do the same. on the other hand, they all freely speak their minds, so it's pretty clear what Tony's presence is doing to everyone in the house. Although no one but Vince knows how their lives are actually connected.

Some of these collisions and encounters are full of fireworks, while others are played for warmth or comedy, plus some eerie romantic tension with Margulies and Garcia-Lorido. But the variety of emotions weaves together organically into something recognisably real, thanks mainly to the offhanded and authentic performances. Garcia is especially good in the central role, and he plays the script's more melodramatic twists perfectly. Together, the cast brings some steeliness to the tougher scenes. And while it sometimes feels a bit overacted, this is after all an Italian family that's more likely to shout than whisper. And in the end it's a vivid exploration of the tangled webs we weave when we stop trusting each other even just a little bit.

cert 12 themes, language, innuendo 14.Jun.10

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© 2010 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall