City Island, located in the Bronx borough of New York City, is a fascinating place. It was created by glacial deposits at the of the end last ice age and the southern end of the island contains rare blue clay. It has since been urbanized, but plenty of wildlife continues to roam free, especially birds. Monk parakeets, which are bright green parrots, breed in the wild in New York and are especially common in City Island. There's also raccoons, squirrels, rabbits, deer, and snakes. It's its own little ecosystem, inhabited by various animals and fisherman. It's the perfect place for a family as interesting as the Rizzos.
The film is about the characters so that's what's important to focus. Honestly, in pieces like this, things like plot don't carry much responsibility. The plot is these characters' lives. There doesn't need to be a clear beginning, middle, and end because that isn't how real life works. It's always more complicated than that.
It's inspiring to watch an actor as cool as Andy Garcia play a character as nerdy and scared as Vince Rizzo. Vince works as a corrections officer, though everyone mistakenly calls him a prison guard. He always corrects, but I happen to think that prison guard sounds like a more impressive occupation, but that's just me. Vince has a secret though. Every Thursday night he goes out of the house to attend something his wife doesn't know about. He tells her that he's playing poker. If his excuse is that he's gambling away his money, how bad must the truth be. The truth is that every Thursday he takes an acting class and he's too ashamed of his high ambitions as an actor that he won't tell anyone the truth.
He's not the only one in the family with a big secret. Vivian, the daughter, is supposed to be off at college. But again, the truth is something different. The truth is that she was suspended from school, got her scholarship yanked, and is working as a stripper to pay her way back in.
The son, Vinnie, is what's known as a "feeder," someone who gets sexual gratification from helping another gain weight. He has a thing for their neighbor, a very large lady, and when he discovers that she has an adult website on the internet, things start to heat up.
On top of all of this, everyone in the family smokes, though no one is aware.
The family survives on lies. It's what they do. And they're getting by on a somewhat-content lifestyle with all of their secrets and it's heartbreaking to watch, knowing what you know. Everything changes when Vince brings a young parolee named Tony home because he happens to be his illegitimate son. Suddenly the acting secret doesn't seem like such a big deal.
Tony is the wrench in the already semi-broken works and soon enough secrets come out. It's fantastic to watch everything get destroyed and then slowly start to come back together. Everyone in the film does a fantastic job and these characters are all expertly written. It's hard not to love everyone of the Rizzos, even with their flaws. Especially with their flaws. While their specific problems might not be the same as everyone else's, the ordeal of keeping secrets from your loved ones is something far too many people know. City Island is a touching and funny portrayal of a family overcoming its problems, as simple as that.
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