Review: City Island

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The Pitch: No Sex Please, We’re Italian-American.

The Review: Think back. Cast your mind as far back as you can – can you actually remember the last good Andy Garcia film you saw? If you ignore the Ocean’s movies, where he got very little of any interest to do other than some slight mugging in the third one, you might find yourself back in the Nineties, with movies like Things To Do In Denver When You’re Dead or Internal Affairs. While he’s always been available to add presence to a movie, it’s often when he gets to show a slightly lighter side as well (think of The Untouchables for an example) that we truly see the best of him.

So it’s a genuine pleasure to see him in something that, while not an out and out comedy, does have enough moments to give him the chance to show a bit of range for a change. Comedy drama might also be an unfair description; probably the closest structure here is that of a classic farce, as the movie serves to layer on implausibilities before they all stack up, ready for the conclusion. As with any good farce, City Island revels in its absurdities; sometimes scenes have the exact outcome you’d expect, simply because you know where the structure needs to take things, although there is the odd surprise.

Thankfully, the quality of the cast on show means that even when the plot is predictable, the movie is never less than enjoyable. Alongside Garcia, Julianna Margulies gets to be shouty and obstinate, his real life daughter gets to be the pole dancer with a heart of sarcasm and Steven Strait attempts to show he’s got more range than the caveman he portrayed in 10,000 B.C. Emily Mortimer is slightly less successful in her role, but doesn’t detract from the overall ensemble, but you will find yourself wishing there was more of Alan Arkin as Vince’s put-upon drama teacher.

It’s the Vince acting sub-plot, as he tries out for his first audition, that allows Garcia to show off his comedy skills, with a bumbling madness that really endears him to you and leaves you wanting the right outcome when the payoff eventually kicks in. The odd thread of the narrative is left slightly unfulfilled, but maybe that’s best as too much more drama at the expense of the light comedy could have unbalanced the whole thing. What we’re left with is a light, frothy adventure in the lives of this family who find it easier to be dishonest than to work through their problems, but if you don’t expect too much from it you should thoroughly enjoy it – and that’s no lie.

Why see it at the cinema: It’s fun, light and frothy, aware of its contrivances but revelling in them, and Andy Garcia is the best he’s been in ages. So why was I the only person in the showing I saw of this, on a Saturday night? If you want a break from the normal round of summer blockbuster entertainment, you could do a lot worse.

The Score: 8/10

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One thought on “Review: City Island

    CMrok93 said:
    March 18, 2011 at 12:36 pm

    There’s nothing earth-shatteringly new, but you do end up wishing the characters well, and I was happy to have spent time with them. It’s a good time, and I found myself actually laughing a lot. Good review, check out mine when you can!

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