Friday, June 25, 2010

The BC Review: City Island

With all of the supposedly (at least marketed to be) Hollywood blockbusters making their way to the theatre during the summer season it's often difficult to find a shining "diamond in the rough". That is to say, the smaller Indie jewels unfortunately tend to fall by the wayside. One such flick is the recently released comedy, City Island. My husband and I had a chance to see this one over the weekend and we were beyond pleasantly surprised!

Starring Andy Garcia as Vince Rizzo, a City Island (for those of you not as familiar with New York City like me, City Island is a small historic fishing village in the Bronx) corrections officer with a secret dream he desperately (and ultimately fails) to hide from his wife and two kids.

Born and raised on City Island (which means he is a bonefide "clam digger"), Vince seeks a life away from the small-town expectations and difficult work of prison guard. His real dream? To become an actor in the likeness of his hero; Marlin Brando. Not wanting to embarrass himself, he uses the guise of evening "poker games" as a cover for his real activities; acting classes. Of course, as the old adage goes, "What a Tangled Web We Weave When First We Practice to Deceive"!

Vince Rizzo's wife, Joyce (expertly played by Julianna Margulies) also has a few secrets to hide; most notably, her addiction to cigarettes (a running theme throwout the film that all four Rizzos share) and her lust for young mysterious house guest tasked to build a bathroom in a shed next to the house. Joyce is the cement that holds the family together, she is rough and tumble with uncharacteristically straight hair, well-worn jeans, and a grating New York accent. But inside her tough exterior, she is vulnerable. As the film continues, her insecurities soon get the better of her and she falls prey to her own unfounded suspicions that Vince's "poker game" is just another word for "affair".

The Rizzo's two kids are also included in the tangled family web, as they too play charades in an attempt to keep their private lives (and in one case; hidden obsession) far from the knowledge of their parents.

Vince's teenage son, Vince Jr. (played by Royal Pains' Ezra Miller), forgoes the usual angsty teenager with a quick wit and biting tongue routine and instead plays a still quick-witted, yet surprisingly humorous, teen with a passion for women. Of course, as this is Indie, Vince Jr.'s love for women is not just any ordinary love, it is a love for the Full-Figured-Woman. One of whom happens to reside next door, runs a 24-hour web cam, and has a passion for baking.

Not to be left out, Vince Jr.'s sister, Vivian Rizzo also has a few secrets to hide. Most notably, her new career; dancing at a club in the city appropriately named, the Hell Cat. Of course, this wouldn't be such a big deal if it wasn't for what she was supposed to be doing; going to college. And one notable piece of trivia, Vince's daughter, Vivian Rizzo, is played by Dominik Garcia-Lorido; Andy Garcia's real-life daughter. In her case the apple certainly did not fall far from the tree!

Finally, we come to one of the most interesting characters in the film; Tony Nardella (played by Steven Strait). At the start of the film, Tony is in lock down in City Island's prison. After a brief and mysterious encounter with a well-intentioned corrections officer, Tony is brought to the outside and tasked to construct a bathroom in an unfinished shed. Of course, he too is not without a few secrets (although he does not yet know what they are) and plays a key role in bringing the whole charade crashing down.

This review would be remiss without the mention of Alan Arkin as Vince's tough, grating, acting coach. In my book, the addition of Alan Arkin to any film almost always spells success (Little Miss Sunshine, America's Sweethearts, and of course, So I Married An Axe Murderer).

Don't be surprised to find yourself laughing out loud at the priceless comedic scenes in this one. Andy Garcia leads the talented cast, expertly adopting the lovable "every man" character and winning our undying adoration.

City Island is highly recommended for fans of the Indie comedy and those looking for something with a bit more substance than the average DC Comics summer blockbuster remake/Tom Cruise action-romantic comedy.

The Bee Charmer Review Rating: A