The Set List
By Brian Washburn
In “City Island,” actor Andy Garcia reveals a range and humanity he’s seldom, if ever, exhibited.
Usually Garcia is a bit mannered as an actor, but as New York Corrections Officer Vince Rizzo, he gives what well may be his best performance. He’s forceful, vulnerable, funny and engaging as the head of a family that is bursting at its seams with secrets.
It’s a deft human performance.
For most of its 100 minutes, “City Island” is smart entertainment. The characters are involving, and the dialogue has snap. It’s a film that alludes to the movie “The Fugitive Kind” and quotes Ogden Nash.
“City Island” is the story of Vince Rizzo, his wife, Joyce (Julianna Margulies), their college-age daughter, Vivian (Dominik Garcia-Lorida), and younger son (Ezra Miller). The Rizzos bicker and squabble. Each member has minor and major secrets.
Also into Vince’s life come a young prisoner, Tony Nardella (Steven Strait), and an aspiring actress, Molly (Emily Mortimer), who add to his secrets and teach him useful lessons.
One of Vince’s secrets is that he wants to be an actor and clandestinely is taking an acting class while his family thinks he is playing poker. The scenes about acting have convincing verisimilitude. Alan Arkin, who plays a drama teacher, has a funny speech about pauses in delivering dialogue.
There also is a hilarious bit of Vince trying to do an impression of Marlon Brando at a casting call.
Writer/director Raymond De Felitta gives his talented cast some good lines and nice bits of business in his personal film. What makes “City Island” even more personal for Garcia is that his daughter, Dominik Garcia-Lorida, plays his daughter in the film.
Margulies (TV’s “The Good Wife”) has to hector a bit much but is substantial as Vince’s wife. Strait is amiable as the hunky, former prisoner. As always, Mortimer is very appealing as the actress with a heavy secret.
De Felitta worked developing his film for a long time, and it may have caused him to commercialize the conclusion. Most of “City Island” is unique and creative, but the ending is diluted and pat.
Most of “City Island” is like a balloon that soars and darts, but at the end the helium escapes and the balloon goes kaput. De Felitta loses his nerve.
“City Island” ends like a sitcom — Everybody Loves Vince — with everything tied together. Even Molly is sent down the path of conformity. While most of the movie has originality and authenticity, the end is hokey.
Before the ending falters, “City Island” has a personal, enjoyable verve.
“Racing Dreams” — or Chariots of Tire — is a niche documentary about three young Kart race drivers who aspire to someday be NASCAR champions.
The more addicted you are to going round and round, the more you’ll relate to “Racing Dreams.” As Tina, one mother, says, she’s bored by baseball and doesn’t understand it, but “racing is an addiction, and we got it bad.”
The three fresh-faced cherubs are 13-year-old Brandon, who competes in senior class racing, and junior class competitors 12-year-old Josh and 11-year-old Annabeth.
Brandon is the bad boy with a temper, and the press notes say the story is “part Catcher in the Rye.” But I knew Holden Caulfield, and Brandon, you’re no Holden.
Michigander Josh seems more like he will be head of the Chamber of Commerce than a racing superstar. His roomful of carefully arranged trophies is both impressive and depressing.
Annabeth is fetching as the feisty female dreamer.
Director Marshall Curry of New York trods into foreign territory and has the keen eye of a visitor. But his film smacks of being too much of a home movie. And the kids’ narration and commentary sometimes seems practiced.
But for those whose church is in Talladega, it won’t matter.