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City Island: a colorful and fun dysfunctional Italian-American family

Posted By: The Annotico Report, Italia Mia Network on June 20, 2010 in Annotico Report, Italy - Comments: No Comments »

"City Island is consistently charming, funny and always entertaining." A lesser movie would descend into clichés about the loud and always arguing Italian-American family, but every time the movie threatens to go that route, De Felitta pulls back and includes a sweet or funny moment that surprises the audience.  It'll likely leave you with a big goofy smile - something that's all too rare this summer.  

'City Island' makes a Dysfunctional Family Colorful, Fun Visalia-Tulare Gannett;By James Ward; June 18, 2010 
"City Island" is consistently charming, funny and always entertaining"  in other words a rarity in a summer movie season full of dumb movies full of explosions and CGI effects.
What strikes you most about the film " aside from the strong performances by the cast" is how much affection writer-director Raymond De Felitta has for his characters.
You get the idea that De Felitta knows and likes the colorful family in the center of "City Island." A lesser movie would descend into clichés about the loud and always arguing Italian-American family, but every time the movie threatens to go that route, De Felitta pulls back and includes a sweet or funny moment that surprises the audience.
The movie tells the story of Vince Rizzo (Andy Garcia), the patriarch of a Italian-American family living in working-class New York City neighborhood in the Bronx called City Island. Rizzo is a prison guard with a dream " to become an actor. He goes as far as taking an acting class " a development he keeps from his wife (Julianna Margulies), who he fears will think his dream is crazy.
One of the pleasures of "City Island" is watching the plot unfold. Besides Vince's secret desire to become an actor, the De Felitta clan has many more secrets they don't want anyone else to know about. The strangest is young teenager Vince Jr.'s (a smart-alec Ezra Miller) rather peculiar budding sexual interests. And college-age daughter Vivian (Dominik García-Lorido, Garcia's real-life daughter) eyebrow-raising, part-time job.
All of the Rizzo clan's secrets come to ahead when Frank decides to sponsor a young parolee (Steven Strait) at his home " a decision that doesn't please his wife". Early on, it's pretty obvious what the relationship between Frank and the parolee is, but since De Felitta has built up so much goodwill with all the characters, it doesn't matter that the film is predictable at times.
Besides the warm but contentious relationships between the Rizzo clan, De Felitta also does a great job developing the friendship between Frank and his acting classmate Molly (a delightful Emily Mortimer), who harbors a few secrets of her own too. What makes the relationship so effective is that it doesn't veer off to the usual melodramatic direction.
De Felitta builds the movie to a final scene in which all the family secrets are revealed. The scene is full of people screaming, crying and eventually coming together as one big happy dysfunctional family. It'll likely leave you with a big goofy smile - something that's all too rare this summer.
 

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