No family unit is perfect. The Rizzo family proves that fact. Each member has a secret portion of their life that they hide from the rest of the family, ranging from smoking when the rest think they quit to lying about a weekly poker game to attending acting classes and auditions instead. No one knows for sure what causes us to lie, but as humans, it is in our nature to do so, and “City Island” catalogs nicely the strain that lying can put on a family, all in a well-mannered and humorous way.

The best parts of “City Island” include the family together as a whole, especially when surrounding the dinner table trying to display a nice dinner for their new guest, with emphasis on the word “try” as the dinner results in the family members filing from the table one by one. The dynamic the family shares is genuinely unique and less heartwarming than straight-up realistic. Whose father never said the wrong thing to their mother, only to dig a deeper hole as he continued to talk, entirely unintentionally and meaning well? Whose son didn’t say inappropriate things to his sister and get sent to his room? Whose sister wasn’t stripping on the sly while trying to pay for college? Well, scratch that last one at least.

Expect a similar feel from “City Island” as was experienced in “Greenberg.” Although empathy is more accessible for the “City Island” characters than for cold-hard Greenberg, the buoyancy is comparable, leaving one to wonder what causes these characters to act out the way they do. Communication is critical in relationships, and Greenberg and the family of “City Island” lacked the basic knowledge to understand how to speak with others/one another.

Emily Mortimer is stunning as the outsider, acting as the confidante for Andy Garcia’s character, Vince. Acting as Vince’s mistress, at least emotionally (as compared to his physical mistress), Molly (Mortimer) is just mysterious enough to draw an audience in and fall for her ultimately. When you think she will shatter the standards you place on her, she rises above and becomes the show’s star. Mortimer has a long and incredible career ahead of her following this piece.

By the film’s conclusion, the mixed feelings of happiness and sadness meld so forcefully together that they form tears as the family unravels on their front lawn. The emotion delivered by Andy Garcia in his final moments of the film (matched by his audition scene where he is allowed to become himself) proves that Garcia can handle the dramedy genre while adding his unique flair to the role. The bottled secrets rush out just as all the emotion you hold throughout the film escapes in one large lump in the throat. The ending is questionably “sappy.” But the real-life understanding from the characters’ reactions beats the melodramatic overtone of most of Hollywood’s makeshift climaxes that lead you on and force you through multiple different endpoints. Instead, City Island leaves the audience with an understanding and admiration for the family’s resiliency without forcefully dragging them along. By the finish, you respect each one of the family members and are left to wonder what secrets your own family is hiding from you.

March 19, 2010

Raymond De Felitta

Raymond De Felitta

Anchor Bay Films

(for sexual content, smoking and language)

104 minutes

Vanja Cernjul

Jan A.P. Kaczmarek

David Leonard

Andy Garcia
Julianna Margulies
Steven Strait
Emily Mortimer
Ezra Miller
Dominik Garcia-Lorido
Alan Arkin

Raymond De Felitta
Andy Garcia
Lauren Versel
Zachary Matz

$6 million

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