Another good, but not great, indie comedy
If there’s a list of actors who ought to have a significantly higher profile then they have in Hollywood, Andy Garcia is at the top (or at least near it). For some it’s hard to see why they’re not getting the role they should be; in Garcia’s case, it’s relatively easy. He’s an actor’s actor and thrives on taking more independent and riskier roles, playing it safe every now and again with a minor role in a studio picture. His poorly received opus to the days before the Cuban Revolution, The Lost City was buttressed by roles in the new Ocean’s 11 trilogy. Garcia’s latest great part / small film comes as Corrections Officer Frank Rizzo in City Island.
Named after the remnants of a small fishing island in the Bronx, NY, that still is home to residents and fishermen alike, the film follows a blue collar family with decidedly interesting problems. Frank wants to be an actor and is embarrassed to tell anyone, making up a weekly poker game to cover up for his late night jaunts into the city for an acting class with an interesting teacher (Alan Arkin in an extended cameo). His wife (Julianne Marguiles) thinks he’s cheating on her and its driving her crazy. His daughter (Dominik Garcia-Lorido) has turned to exotic dancing to pay for her college career while his son (Ezra Miller) has a fetish for obese women. When Frank meets his long lost son (Stephen Strait) from another woman at work (he’s incarcerated for drug possession) he throws a monkey wrench into his life by bringing him home to live with his family, the Rizzo clan is thrown into all sorts of upheaval. And in a lesser film, this would be wrapped up in melodrama leading to a big, weepy moment at the film. But Raymond De Felitta has better ideas; play it for the comedy that it could be.
Played as a farce, the film follows the clan as they try and hide an accumulation of secrets from one another. As the film progresses and the family try to continually conceal their lies from one another, De Felitta has a deft touch with the proceedings. Known for his work on the indie circuit, City Island is another in a line of films he’s done with good casts. And it might be his best so far.
De Felitta’s main ability as a director seems to be that he can get great lead performances out of great character actors. He got Peter Falk and Alan Reiser to work beautifully together and he gets the same out of Andy Garcia and Julianna Marguiles, whom the film revolves around. Adopting ridiculous Brooklyn accents, as does the rest of the cast, De Felitta has set out to make this as much of a farce as possible while still retaining some sort dignity to the proceedings. This isn’t a complete over the top farce, like Anchorman, but it strays towards that territory enough to keep the film’s inherent drama from being able to truly take effect.
And while the film has plenty of dramatic material to work with, De Felitta plays it for a farce enough that it takes away from it in the same way the comedy in The Thing About My Folks took away from the film’s inherent dramatic material. City Island follows that film in being a good, but not remarkable indie comedy.
Director: Raymond De Felitta
Notable Cast: Andy Garcia, Steven Strait, Emily Mortimer, Julianna Marguiles, Ezra Miller, Alan Arkin
Writer(s): Raymond De Felitta