City Island "Method" Comedy

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“Method” Comedy

City Island captures 4 Red Vines for being an acting tour de force

While audiences are bombarded with big budget films with even bigger casts, special effects and in some cases even special glasses, there’s a quiet little comedy that you can’t afford to overlook.  This time around the laughs are in the hands of serious dramatic actors and as real pros so often do, they make it look easy.

“City Island” is a little patch of land that’s actually part of the Bronx.  The picturesque fishing village looks like it is plucked right off of a postcard.  It’s the generational home of the Rizzo Family.  Andy Garcia heads the hard working, working class clan that has embraced bickering as the family’s main form of communicating.  A prison guard by day, he takes acting classes at night, pursing only in his heart, his dream of dreams.  But it’s a big secret he keeps from everyone, especially his wife Joyce (Julianna Marguilies).  No matter, she has secrets of her own.  As does his young son Vince Jr. and college coed daughter, Vivian.

One night his acting teacher (Alan Arkin) pairs him up with a classmate Molly (Emily Mortimer).  Their assignment?  To tell each other their inner most secret and use it in a monologue the following week.  Wow.  Tough assignment for someone who has so many secrets.  And share with a stranger when he can’t even open up to his wife?  That’s gonna take some doing.  But open up he does and the results are life changing for him, Molly and everyone involved in their lives.

The dysfunction in the Rizzo family is so deep and the consequences of the actions taken dangerously risk turning their lives into a Greek tragedy.  But happily the road veers off into comedy and a jaw dropping one at that.  The family’s stored up cornucopia of secrets and lies ends up spilling out with absolutely hilarious results as each member is in for the shock of their life.  I am not ashamed to say that the heartwarming ending brought tears to my eyes, I was so happy.

The whole cast is really fantastic.  Newcomer Steven Strait as the mysterious inmate, Vince springs from the coop is as talented as he is handsome.  Even though he spent a good part of the time shirtless, I look forward to seeing more of him!  With looks and talent like his that is sure to come.   Ezra Miller is wonderfully cast as Vince Jr. and milks many laughs.  Dominik Garcia-Lorido is both stunning and a treat in her small role.  I was surprised to learn that she is actually Andy Garcia’s real life daughter!  And I have never enjoyed the talents of Julianna Marguilies as much as I did in “City Island.”  She is funny, feisty and vulnerable.

But make no mistake, this is Andy Garcia’s movie.  He simply grabs you by the throat and makes you laugh, cry, care with everything he’s got.  He is an absolute marvel to watch, as it always is every time one gets to watch a really great actor who both commands and loves his craft.  Joy.  Joy.  Joy!

Whatever you do, don’t let this small film get lost in the big budget, big spectacle shuffle. I’ve seen all of them.  Love all of them.  But none of them are better than “City Island.”

LADIES ROOM LOWDOWN:   Even though the audience was relatively small there was spontaneous enthusiastic applause at the end.  More so than the big budget previews I attend.  And all the way out, into the ladies room and beyond, all I could hear were comments like, “That was great!”  “Best movie I’ve seen in a long time!”  “That was really funny.”

A screener of this movie was provided to me by the studio but it in no way effects my unbiased review.