City Island

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
City Island Movie Poster Image
Wacky film makes smoking, teen fetish part of the joke.
  • PG-13
  • 2010
  • 103 minutes

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 2 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

While the movie is full of positive messages -- including that secrets, when left to fester, can complicate matters and even destroy relationships, and family matters -- these messages are hidden between iffy (if funny) content about teenage sexual fetishes, underage smoking, and yelling as a form of family communication.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Teens smoke, use Internet porn, and everyone lies and yells -- at least at first -- so are not ideal role models. But they each find a way to reveal their true selves, especially Vince. He best exemplifies the importance of following one's inner compass, and how doing something you love might just make you love life -- and appreciate what you have -- a whole lot more.


Members of a family communicate by yelling. A fight breaks out between two men and one guy brandishes a knife. In the same scene, a character is chained to a lamp post by another.


A teenage boy visits porn sites featuring scantily clad overweight women. He appears to fetishize them. A married woman flirts and kisses a younger man who's not her husband. A college girl works at a strip bar (we see her and her co-workers dancing while scantily clad).


Somewhat strong, including "bitch," "s--t," and "whore."


Some signage for stores, plus car makes like the Ferrari and the Impala are name-dropped.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Spouses promise each other they'll quit smoking but they both continue to do so behind each other's backs. The entire family, in fact, smokes, including the kids (a teenager and a college girl). One character's mother is described as an alcoholic and drug addict, though she's never introduced. Social drinking (beer, martinis). A character talks about pot.

What 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. 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bywonder dove May 4, 2012


City Island is great! Not as funny as I was hoping, but very cute & original story about a dysfunctional American Family. Sexual content is minor (no nu... Continue reading
Adult Written byMAXTHEKINGOFALL... May 30, 2010

Great film with good messages for 15 and up.

I really enjoyed this film, and although there is frequent smoking and sexual references, there are positive messages here, such as: families should not hide th... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written byBestPicture1996 July 16, 2012

Underrated and well worth your time

I remember reading a good review for this film way back in 2010, and finally found it on cable one day. It was great, and showed just what a great actor Andy G... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byEricCarrRulez February 8, 2011
I think this is quite possibly one of the best movies I've ever seen. I suppose you'll have to watch it to see what I mean... :-)

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.

Talk to your kids 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?

Movie details

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