Combustible Celluloid
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With: Andy Garcia, Julianna Margulies, Emily Mortimer, Alan Arkin, Steven Strait, Ezra Miller, Dominik García-Lorido, Sharon Angela, Jee Young Han
Written by: Raymond De Felitta
Directed by: Raymond De Felitta
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sexual content, smoking and language
Running Time: 104
Date: 03/23/2009

City Island (2010)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Fishing for Trouble

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Raymond De Felitta (The Thing About My Folks) wrote and directed this screwball comedy about a crazy New York family, each member of which carries his or her own secret. De Felitta sets the action on "City Island," a funny little island (about 1-1/2 miles by a half-mile) located just off of New York and officially part of the Bronx. Sadly, the filmmaker doesn't really use this unique location for anything except travelogue and little factoids between bits of plot. But the setups are amusing enough that they pass the time pleasantly.

Andy Garcia produces and stars as correctional officer Vince Rizzo. ("A prison guard?" people ask anytime he mentions it.) Vince is secretly taking acting classes in New York and lying to his wife about it; he says he's playing poker, and she thinks he's having an affair. Vince has another secret: a grown son from a previous marriage. Tony (Steven Strait) turns up in Vince's prison. He has made parole, but only under the condition that he be released into the care of a family member. Since Vince is the only family he has, he brings Tony home, without -- of course -- telling him who he really is. Also, Vince secretly smokes on the side, hoping his wife won't notice.

Vince's sexy wife Joyce (Julianna Margulies) also secretly smokes, but believing her husband is having an affair, allows herself to start flirting with the hunky Tony. Meanwhile, the grown daughter (Dominik GarcĂ­a-Lorido, Garcia's gorgeous real-life daughter) is secretly working as a stripper to make up for her lost scholarship. And their son, Vince Jr. (Ezra Miller), has begun to show an interest in a particular sexual fetish: feeding fat girls. Emily Mortimer plays Vince's acting partner in class, further making it look as if Vince is cheating, and Alan Arkin plays the jaded teacher ("No pauses... I'm sick of pauses.").

De Felitta gives his movie a bright look and a nice pace, but it almost seems exhausted with keeping and juggling this many secrets; the screwball never becomes truly screwy. But I like the way the characters genuinely seem affected by their troubles. Nothing seems like a gimmick. There's a real connection between the actors, and the way a family dinner can explode into an argument from almost nothing is totally believable. It also follows that the big, climactic explosion of secrets and lies comes not in the house, but in the street, as one character after another storms out of the house: they need the entire island to air their troubles. I just wish the rest of the film could have integrated the island. Regardless, it's an enjoyable film.

Anchor Bay released the Blu-Ray in 2010. It comes with a commentary track by the director and Andy Garcia, as well as a "dinner" with the actors, deleted scenes, and trailers.

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