Rated PG-13 for sexual content, smoking and language, 99 minutes
"City Island" is a conventional, overacted tale of family dysfunction
Movies about nice, happy families are pretty boring, which is why family dysfunction is so often mined in movies. "City Island" is another one of those films about family dysfunction and while some it is fun, the low-budget independent film is largely an unrevealing, overly familiar portrait of people who live under the same roof with a few secrets and don't get along.
"City Island" tells the story of the Rizzo's, a working class Bronx family with loads of secrets. Andy Garcia is Vince, a correctional officer and an aspiring actor. His wife Joyce (Julianna Margulies) works in customer service and is secretly a chain smoker. His college-age daughter (Dominik Garcia-Lorido, Andy's real-life daughter) is away at school but is a stripper on the side. And his younger son Vince Jr. (Ezra Miller) has a fetish for some unique porn. Vince learns he has a long-lost son named Tony (Steven Strait) in jail, and invites him to his house to stay awhile, without telling his family or Tony himself about their relationship.
"City Island" is one of those pleasant, slightly amusing family dysfunction films where an outsider comes in and discovers the family's secrets before they do. The stranger figures things out in a few minutes, though it's been under the rest of the family member's noses the whole time. That's some of the plot to "City Island," some of which works, some of which doesn't. It's too big a contrivance to have each family member with their own secret, even if some of the secrets themselves are fun to watch.
Garcia gives a typically hammy performance, but still has the film's most memorable scene, in which he's auditioning for a part and the way in which he naturally gets into the scene, surprising even himself. The rest of "City Island" isn't as memorable, particularly when the whole family is together and they scream and yell at each other in typical family dysfunction fashion, as if the secrets they have weren't enough. It is nice seeing Garcia and his daugther, who bears striking resemblance to him, act together in the same film.
The last act of "City Island" in particular is a little too predictable as things unravel and start to implode this New York family. Everything comes to an entertaining and affecting, if not well-worn (and loud) ending, where all the secrets are revealed so this family (and the audience) can go on living. You've seen this before many times in other movies and TV shows, and done much better than this.