What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this hilarious comedy about a disfunctional family addresses such squeamish subjects as teens using Internet fetish porn, young women working in strip clubs (with scenes of barely dressed dancers), and a criminal past. Also, the whole family smokes (and lies about it), plus there's some swearing ("bitch," "s--t"), though not much, and lots of raised voices -- this clan likes to yell -- but there's also plenty of love.
What's the story?
Vince Rizzo (Andy Garcia), a correctional officer, has a dream: He wants to be an actor. While he's attending classes in Manhattan and making friends with a mysterious woman (Emily Mortimer), his wife, Joyce (Julianna Margulies), stews at home in the picturesque part of the Bronx known as City Island, convinced he's having an affair. That's not his only secret, either. A son (Tony Nardella) unaware Vince is his real father, is an inmate at the prison, and though he's ready to be paroled, he has no family to go home to, so he's still locked up. Stricken with guilt, Vince brings him home, introducing him as a friend. In the meantime, Vince's teenage son, Vince Jr. (Ezra Miller), is busy skipping school and viewing fetish websites, and his daughter (Dominik García-Lorido), can't bear to tell them of a big problem, too. Together, they make for one hugely dysfunctional, and amusing, family.
Is it any good?
CITY ISLAND could've easily gone wrong, with all its twists and turns, but for the most part, it gets family dysfunction just right. Irreverent and surprising, it's a hilarious way to lose a few hours, especially when those hours are spent with a cast that's on its game. Garcia, who shot to fame for his broody, sensual roles, plays the paterfamilias here with great zest. (His real-life daughter is cast as his oldest here, too.) Margulies, also known mostly for her dramatic turns, gives him lots to work against as his combustible wife, Joyce. But it's Miller as his droll, sarcastic son who commands the screen; his disaffected teen could almost join a pantheon that includes the likes of Ferris Bueller and nearly every character portrayed by Michael Cera.
The film's a riot, but it could've been much better with focus. City Island seems to be a metaphor for authenticity, but it's not made clear. The film starts off shrouding the area with a distinct identity, but all that gives way to a comedy that could've been set anywhere. Alan Arkin as an acting teacher is underused, and Mortimer seems more plot device than actual player. Like City Island itself, they're woefully wasted.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about smoking. Did you know that exposure to smoking in the media is connected to teens taking up the habit? Did smoking appear sexy or cool in this movie? Why do you think the makers of the movie decided to include smoking in the story?
Why does Vince feel the need to hide his aspirations? What does acting give him that's missing in other parts of his life? Why doesn't his wife talk to him about her suspicions? What hampers their communication? Does any of this storlyline resonate with your family issues?
Talk about the singular way relatives can get under your skin and yet be the ones who have your back. What is it about this dynamic that makes it so rife for conflict? What kinds of conflicts arise in your household? How do parents and kids manage conflict in healthy and unhealthy ways?