If you've ever looked at your nearest and dearest and thought they're a bit wacky, then you've obviously never met a family quite like the Rizzos. Shot in the picturesque fishing setting of City Island, New York, this indie film explores the intricate relationships of a dangerously secretive Bronx family.
When correctional officer (and closet aspiring actor) Vince Rizzo (Garcia) discovers his long lost son (Strait) locked up in the facility where he works, he resolves to make up for years lost and bails him out. However, with a daughter (García-Lorido) who has unbeknownst to her parents landed a gig as a part-time stripper, a younger son (Miller) looking for love with older women online and a dejected wife (Margulies) who believes her husband is cheating on her, it's hardy the best environment to bring your secret ex-con love child into. So how long will it take for the dysfunctional family's web of lies to fall apart?
'City Island' is one of those rare films that is wildly quirky but still extremely accessible - devoid of big budget interference, it makes for raw and fresh viewing. Although you could be forgiven for giving up on the story after the first 30 minutes, it is well worth the effort, as the tale gets more intricate as it develops, taking risks where perhaps Hollywood would not.
Reminding us why he is an Oscar-nominated actor, Garcia adopts a Bronx accent and shines through this simple script to deliver a magnificent performance. He manages to turn his hard man character Vince into a loveable rogue who is endearing and humorous. Vince's audition for the Scorsese film wills you to love him even more, with his comical impression of Marlon Brando.
One step above a sitcom, (think 'Curb Your Enthusiasm'-meets-'Everybody Loves Raymond') the similarities between 'City Island' and 'Little Miss Sunshine' can't be ignored. Both present us with fiercely dysfunctional families whose inability to communicate with each other leaves them in unnecessary situations. However, with 'City Island' the characters seem more real and distinguishable. The depiction of Vince in the throes of a mid-life crisis is hilarious; it's a part that could have ended up a clichéd disaster in the wrong hands.
The bizarre subplots involving Vince's daughter (both on screen and in her real life) and son are definitely controversial, but somehow they only work to make this family seem more approachable and charming. But while Emily Mortimer's character adds depth to the film, her presence seems a little forced and contrived.
Totally un-hyped, 'City Island' is a beautiful piece of pleasurable cinema that will bring a smile to even the grouchiest of viewers.