Sunday, June 6, 2010

CITY ISLAND (2010)

Written & Directed by Raymond DeFelitta



Where & When: Laemmle's Sunset 5, West Hollywood, CA. June 5, 2010 7: 20PM



A few months ago, I saw the trailer for "City Island". The film looked lousy to me and I knew that this was not something I would waste my time in seeing. Later, the film was released and it didn't get great reviews which I was not surprised. However, I heard that the box office for the film was improving week by week and it was getting strong word-of-mouth. I'm a sucker for that kind of thing, so I decided I should throw caution to the wind and check out "City Island". Maybe my initial reaction was faulty and I might have missed out on a great film. After the credits finally started to roll, I sat there thinking, "What the hell is wrong with people?" There was absolutely nothing appealing or funny about this film. Nothing!

This film is set in New York, in an area of the Bronx called, City Island where the Rizzo family lives. Andy Garcia plays Vince Rizzo, a correctional officer who dreams of becoming an actor. He decides to sneak off to take classes a few nights a week and tells his wife, Joyce (Julianna Margulies, with a very distracting haircut) that he's playing poker with the guys. Joyce is not buying it but instead of confronting her husband, she just sits at home and smokes the cigarettes her husband doesn't think she is still smoking. Vince is also still smoking too but he also hides it from his wife, which is just the beginning of the deception throughout this film.

Their obnoxious, teenage son, Vince, Jr. (Ezra Miller) is a closet chubby chaser who has a strong desire to feed doughnuts to their obese, next door neighbor who also just happens to have a web site catering to people who love big & beautiful women, which Vince just happened to find. Their daughter, Vivian (Dominik Garcia-Lorido, actual daughter of Andy) is coming home to visit from college, although that is no longer true. She is now secretly a stripper while her parents think she is studying for her classes she is no longer taking.

Vince is taking an acting class taught by a frustrated actor (Oscar winner, Alan Arkin, why?) where he meets fellow student, Molly (Emily Mortimer), who encourages Vince that he is doing the right thing and even helps direct him towards an audition for a film by Martin Scorsese. Molly, of course, has a dark secret that is revealed because of an acting assignment that involves telling a secret about yourself in class that nobody knows.

Finally, a young prisoner, Tony (Steven Strait) at the jail Vince works in could be eligible for parole if there was a family member who would take him in. Tony has no family alive but Vince just happened to have known his mother and decides to bring Tony to stay in his home. He tells Tony not to tell his family that he was in jail but to say he is a visiting friend who is staying to help build a spare bathroom. Joyce is not at all happy about this situation but soon warms up to the idea when she sees Tony working without a shirt on.

There is, obviously, a secret about Tony that Vince is keeping from him but he is just trying to find the right time to tell him. The Rizzos have a serious problem with communication and feel that it's far better to keep secrets from their own family than try and tell the truth. Maybe it's just me but I didn't find much humor in all this dishonesty.

There's a whole lot of secrets and lies going on in this film and it all adds up to one big dump of a ridiculous, unearned happy ending. None of these people are anybody you would want to know, let alone be related to. It made me think about another dramedy, "Greenberg" the film by Noah Baumbach that came out earlier this year. Ben Stiller played the title character who was unlikable and unpleasant but because it was well written and well acted, the film was actually enjoyable.

It's quite apparent that Mr. DeFelitta has seen a lot of movies and has felt the need to throw in every film cliche that he has ever seen of a New Yorker into his movie. To be fair, all films have moments of deja vu but this film feels heavily recycled. There is not an ounce of real comedy in this screenplay or in the acting for that matter and he has Mr. Garcia and Ms Margulies speaking in loud, painfully exaggerated accents.

The one positive thing I can say about the film is that it used a couple of great songs by the Staple Singers on the soundtrack. I'm going to be perfectly honest with you and say that I didn't much care for "City Island" and I wish I had listened to my instincts about this film but that's what I get for trusting other people.