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Movie Review: “City Island”

March 3rd, 2010 by Jordan Bonitatis Content Operations

City Island was the most refreshing film I’ve seen in a great long time. I say this as a film lover and, also, as an Italian-American. It’s the story of the Rizzos, a family that has been lying to each other for far too long, and their “house of cards” is on the brink of collapse. Imagine The Royal Tenenbaums as a working-class family living in the Bronx.

Their deceptions range from the minor — quitting smoking, hidden hobbies — to tectonic (think paternity ). I was already two-thirds of the way into the movie when I realized I had been watching a story with all the trappings of a classic Greek tragedy. The narrative moves at a clip, and the weight of the tragic elements are buoyed with great acting punctuated with brilliant comic timing. The overall gravity of the story isn’t compromised by the comedy, but rather just more realized from it — after all, there is nothing worse than a film screaming at you about how meaningful something is. Writer/director Raymond De Felitta lets the story progress organically, trusting his audience and trusting his actors. If I had any confidence in the Academy Awards, I’d expect major awards for Andy Garcia and Julianna Margulies. They embody their characters so well, I began wondering if Andy Garcia’s natural speaking voice was closer to that of Vince Rizzo and he’s just polished it up a bit for his other roles.

City Island is a great an example of a film that serves an important function in the culture of Italian-Americans, as well. Yes, this film is about a dysfunctional family. Yes, they speak with heavy dialects, but we’re invited to laugh with the Rizzos, not at them. Popular television shows (I’m looking at you Jersey Shore) create one-dimensional, hyper-stereotyped caricatures of Italian-Americans that function as some kind of societal catharsis for homogenized America. City Island, on the hand, creates a family with such depth and realism that their ethnic background, though apparent, is an afterthought.

Catch City Island in theaters March 19.

Jordan Bonitatis
Hulu’s Trailer Guy

Last comment: Mar 8th 2014 3 Comments
  • Lucas says:

    Awsome blog! I am loinvg it!! Will be back later to read some more. I am bookmarking your feeds also

  • John Meduri says:

    To the Writer/director Raymond De Felitta; you have embarrassed the Italians as so many other movie makers have done. Is this how you depict Bronx Italian families? I don’t know where you grew up and what type of family you came from but in Little Italy in The Bronx, most families where not as shown in this film. Why did you not use Italian American actors and actresses? Did they refuse? You say, “we’re invited to laugh with the Rizzos, not at them”, I think we will be laughed at.

  • Maria says:

    Great screening of movie in Pelham last night. As an ex-mussel sucker, I loved the sights …and the actors. Am I prejudiced…damn right! Great fun! Bring it to all the better movie houses in the area….like Jacob Burns, and Avon in Stamford.

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