Film Review: CITY ISLAND

Directed and Written by Raymon DeFelitta
Released: 7/23/09
Starring: Andy Garcia, Julaianna Marguiles, Emily Mortimer, Ana Arkin, Steven Strait
100 minutes

It’s nearly impossible to believe that a mainstream movie like this one has been released as if it were art house fare. It is also hard to imagine that the dreadful romances coming out this winter and spring would garner a larger audience than this one, but what do I know. If it’d been released after the success of Marguiles’ THE GOOD WIFE, it may have gotten a wider distribution. (Her performance on that series is superior to her performance here. Or perhaps the writing is more subtle).

Plot: Vince, (Garcia) a prison guard, is a man with ambitions—but not in the field of criminal justice. He is secretly attending acting classes. In fact, everyone in his family has a secret. And only the audience is privy to them. His wife, Joyce (Marguiles) believes he has a mistress, his daughter is stripping to earn money to return to college, his son has an unusual fetish—one I found a bit alarming to be treated so lightly. When Vince brings a newly released prisoner home, the secrets begin to unravel.

There is not a subtle or realistic moment in this rather bombastic and inauthentic, but strangely likable film. Other than the nuanced performance of the always wonderful Emily Mortimer, the film is acted similarly to Moonstruck of a generation ago. No small parts, only small performances must have been the credo of this director and cast as they ratcheted up every family fight or emotion to operatic levels.

Still it is hard not to like a movie that treats the dreams and secrets of a blue-collar family so seriously. A few years back, DeFelitta made the movie Two-Story House, a nice companion piece to this one.


Patti Abbott writes crime fiction short stories. She hosts a look at Forgotten Books every Friday with readers, writers and reviewers at She hopes you’ll join in.