out of Five
Running time: 104
Impressively directed and superbly written, this is an emotionally engaging, warm-hearted and frequently funny family drama with terrific central performances from Andy Garcia and Julianna Margulies.
What's it all about?
Written and directed by Raymond De Felitta, City Island stars Andy Garcia as Vince Rizzo, a City Island corrections officer who dreams of being an actor and secretly attends acting classes in Manhattan, preferring to tell his fiery-tempered wife Joyce (Julianna Margulies) that he's playing poker instead. However, acting isn't Vince's only secret – when he discovers that one of his inmates, Tony (Steven Strait), is his adult son from a previous relationship, he brings him home to live with his family, without telling anyone – including Tony – who he really is.
As it turns out, Vince isn't the only member of his family with something to hide – his student daughter Vivian (Dominik Garcia-Lorido, Garcia's real life daughter) is moonlighting as a stripper and his teenage son Vince Jr (Ezra Miller) is developing a fetish for obese women. Meanwhile, Joyce finds herself falling for Tony's frequently shirtless charms and Vince starts spending a lot of time with fellow acting student Molly (Emily Mortimer), who has a secret of her own.
Andy Garcia is terrific as Vince, nailing the distinctive City Island accent and delivering a warm-hearted and emotionally engaging performance that's amongst his very best work. Julianna Margulies is equally amazing, seizing the opportunity to play something other than her goody-goody TV persona (The Good Wife, ER) and effortlessly demonstrating that she's one of Hollywood's best unsung actresses – here's hoping her role here leads to much bigger opportunities elsewhere.
The supporting cast are great too, particularly Strait (even if it does get increasingly ridiculous that his character doesn't figure out who Vince is) and Miller, while there's also an enjoyable cameo from Alan Arkin as Vince's acting teacher.
The sharply-written script crackles with great dialogue and keeps you thoroughly hooked throughout, throwing in several surprises and ensuring that none of the scenes play out quite the way you expect (e.g. the inevitable revelation scene). It's also frequently funny throughout and De Felitta orchestrates several memorable moments, such as Vince getting acting advice from Tony or auditioning for a Scorsese movie.
City Island is a thoroughly enjoyable, emotionally engaging family drama with a superb script and terrific performances from a note-perfect ensemble cast. Highly recommended.