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City Island

City Island

What he said:

He

The family setting has long been a backdrop for the classic comedy/drama. Examining problems a family faces – in a funny way – is certainly not anything new in the movie-making business. However, in the last few years, the genre has seen some dramatic changes. 

Gone are the days of movies like Parenthood. Now we have movies like Running With Scissors, Little Miss Sunshine, and City Island.  All of these movies take a hard, no-nonsense look at some everyday – and not so everyday – problems parents and their children face. However in recent years, the classic comedy/drama has taken on a more “quirky” feel. Gone are the days where teen pregnancy is the biggest problem families faced. The problems in these newer, more modern, movies are so off the wall, they sometimes border on unrelatable. 

Maybe it’s because of our evolving society? Or maybe it’s because Hollywood thinks that is what we want to see? Either way, I’ve definitely noticed the change. City Island is one of these “modern” flicks.

Andy Garcia plays Vince Rizzo. Vince is a prison guard from a quiet, small, and relatively hidden part of the Bronx known as City Island. Despite a long career as a prison guard, Vince longs for something bigger. He secretly longs for a career as an actor. So much so, that he takes acting classes behind his wife’s back. Even his children are unaware of his secret passion. 

As his wife (played by Juliana Margulies) begins to think Vince is having an affair, this leads to a chain reaction that will either tear the family apart or bring them closer together than ever.

Throw in an inmate – played by Steven Straight – that Vince decides to help out and take in upon his release, and you’ve got yourself a modern comedy/drama.

I liked this movie. It was fun. The characters were generally likeable and performances were just fine. But I would be lying to you if I said this approach to this kind of movie isn’t wearing on me a bit. Nowadays, all these movies have families with some really “out there” problems. Not every family is the same and not all families problems are the same; I get that. But this new approach seems a bit alienating at times. I’d like to see a little more variety in the future. Every family out there isn’t some “quirky”, but loveable bunch. Some problems are more pedestrian than others, but the movies would have you believe everyone out there has a really big secret or some zainy fetish. 

Rating: Thumbs up

This movie review was written for your reading pleasure on May 30, 2011.

What she said:

She

Anything labeled as a family dramedy kind of scares me.  So often I end up so deeply annoyed by the quirks of said family that I despise all the characters and hate the movie.  I’d never heard of City Island before the Blu-ray ended up wandering into my home, and I was definitely apprehensive.  Out the gate, I was a little concerned.  All the charms of a slightly trashy family from the Bronx—frankly, I thought it would be too much for me.  And the movie did teeter that line for a bit.  But as the characters developed, the story became a bit more genuine and the true humor came through.  

Andy Garcia plays a prison guard…er…corrections officer who secretly moonlights as an actor behind his wife’s back.  And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.  We’ve got a secret love-child, a kid with a rather odd fetish, a stripper, and everyone in this family smokes behind eachother’s backs.  Basically, they’re a bit of a mess, and it could all be solved if they just communicated.  Easier said than done.  The entire movie swirls around as lies build on lies and things comes to a head.  Sounds like it could be annoying, but it’s not too bad.  There’s some fresh humor that keeps the film light.  And that’s what keeps it from turning into The Royal Tannenbaums for me.  Sure, there’s plenty of drama and lots of fighting, but nothing ever gets too heavy and melodramatic. 

I’m not sure if this film got a mainstream run in theaters, but that certainly doesn’t mean it’s not worth checking out.  It’s not the best movie ever, but it feels fulfilling by the end.

Diagnosis: Thumbs up.