“That’s not bullshit; that’s acting”: City Island

The Rizzos are not just another dysfunctional family.  They are, perhaps, the most interesting and attractive dysfunctional family I’ve ever seen.  Certainly more attractive than the Conners.

What we learn in the first ten minutes:

Vivian (Dominik García-Lorido), the daughter, dropped out of college,  is now a stripper, and hasn’t told her family.

Vince Jr. (Ezra Miller), the son, is secretly a chubby chaser.  Or is there a more politically correct term for that?

Joyce (Julianna Margulies), the wife, thinks her husband is cheating on her.

Vince (Andy Garcia), the husband, is a corrections officer who lies about going to poker games when he actually goes to acting classes.

Everyone secretly smokes.

A wrench gets thrown into this family’s way of life when Vince brings home one of his inmates, Tony Nardella (Steven Strait)–a very handsome inmate–to live with them for a month before he can be released.  Need I say more?

Actually, I do.

At first I was worried.  I mean, watch the trailer.  Listen to Andy Garcia’s accent.  Listen to them yelling.  Oy vey.  It could have very easily become just another movie about a cray-cray family that doesn’t get along and consists of stereotypical citizens of the Bronx .  But it wasn’t.  In all their dysfunctional glory, it’s clear every member of this family deeply cares about all the others, making their inability to communicate to one another both hilarious and heart breaking.

As the film progresses, the intricately woven lies they’ve all construed in order to keep their family out of their lives begins to intertwine and become revealed.  Of course, it takes an outsider to help them realize things would be much easier if they were all honest with each other.

This, my friends, is a great film.  Garcia is so endearing and convincing as a blue collar, Joe Schmo dad with dreams I just want to… okay, marry him.  (Yeah, I have issues.  Moving right along.)  His character’s audition was so nerve-racking and realistic it made me cringe while being simultaneously funny and brilliant.  Ezra Miller may play one of my favorite characters in a movie of all time.  As the smart-ass younger brother, his ability to find the hysterically inappropriate thing to say that what will press his mother’s and/or sister’s buttons is spot on.  Beyond that, anybody who wants to skip class to feed his crush donuts is okay by me.  Even Margulies’ character, the brusque, (understandably) suspicious wife and mother, is likable and–here it is again–funny.  When learning why her daughter lost her scholarship, she hugged her and reassured, “Oh, sweetie.  Everybody smokes pot.”

There’s a reason this won the Audience Award at Tribeca.  I highly recommend this film to everyone who likes good movies.  Furthermore, it begs the age-old question:  if you can’t be upfront and honest with your family, than who can you be totally yourself with?

But don’t ask me.  I don’t talk to those people.

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