Tuesday, November 09, 2010

MOVIE REVIEW: "City Island"

I saw a lovely, buoyantly happy film last night on DVD. It was written and directed by Raymond D. Felitta) and stars Andy Garcia (who also produced): "City Island." I must admit I--along with most moviegoers--missed it when it opened (the box office take was horrible) back in Spring when it was released in theaters.

It is one of those all-too-often sad tales of a 'small' Hollywood film that gets overlooked. It is a charming, well acted, and well envisioned. Its story made a promise in the opening minutes, and it fulfilled that promise. Such a rarity in most of today's films! It stars Andy Garcia, Julainna Margulies, Steven Strait, Alan Arkin and Emily Mortimer. They are all very good, and create very audience appealing character-performances.

Andy Garcia is more than good...he is excellent. I have never been a huge fan of Mr. Garcia's distinguished career--respectful but reserved in my enthusiasm for his work. But in this work he is superb. I am a fan now.

The film is and should be particularly joyous for actors and acting students to watch. Mr. Garcia's character is a prison guard by day; a closet acting student by night (he lies to his wife about his secret passion...he says he is going to poker games.) When he is given an acting exercise in class to tell the truth, he is encouraged by a fellow acting student (Ms. Mortimer) to spring on his family his deeper personal truth: the young man he brought home earlier in the film to live with his family as a rehabilitating ex-prisoner, is really his son from a long ago teenage romance. Not even the ex-con/small-time-thief son knows that truth.

Set on a small suburban island in the midst of New York City, the film setting becomes both real and surreally fantastic at the same time. The story events and scenes are filled with whimsy, humor, pathos and familial truth. Each character's personaly stories constantly intersect--and you participate in a dysfunctional family's deconstruction you love to love.

It is not a sophisticated film. And it doesn't pretend to be...thank God. Rent the DVD and watch it. It was recommended to me as a "Sunday afternoon film." I watched it on a Saturday night, late and dark, but it made the sun shine.


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