A couple of nights ago while browsing Netflix for a new movie to watch, I came across an independent film called City Island. It tells the story of the Rizzos – a dysfunctional family living in the small, sleepy fishing village of City Island in the Bronx, New York. Even though the film looked a little bit like the East Coast version of Little Miss Sunshine, I was willing to give it a try and I’m very glad I did. There’s nothing that I enjoy more than going into a film with low expectations and having every single one of my doubts shattered.
City Island, written and directed by Raymond De Felitta, could easily have fallen into the trap that many independent films do, which is trying too hard to be quirky and unconventional, thus making it the exact opposite, but the authentic performances of an immensely talented cast, and the earnest script make the audience forget about any predictability the resolution of the film might contain.
Vince Rizzo (Andy Garcia) is an Italian, tough-talking prison guard and City Island native. But there’s much more to Vince than meets the eye. While he tells his wife Joyce (Julianna Margulies) that he is going to play poker with his friends, he is really taking acting classes in the city where he forms a bond with a young aspiring actress played by the charming Emily Mortimer. But Vince isn’t the only one in the family with a secret.
His rebellious son, Vince Jr. (Ezra Miller), has some peculiar and unexpected fetishes, his smart-mouthed daughter Vivian (Dominik Garcia-Lorido) was kicked out of college and is now finding other means to pay for her tuition. But the plot really thickens when Vince brings home an ex-con named Tony (Steven Strait) to stay with him and his family for reasons unknown to Joyce. As Joyce is suspecting her husband is having an affair instead of going to poker games, she begins a mutually flirtatious relationship with Tony that can only bring disastrous consequences.