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City Island

A Family of Secrets

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars.

Families have secrets and after a while it tears them apart. If only everyone would be more honest. At least, thatís the moral from City Island. Yes, itís another family dramedy about lies, honesty, and trying to survive together. Itís a tired setup but itís about how itís done not what itís about. Writer/director Raymond De Felitta doesnít pull off an original film, however, it does have enough moments to be enjoyable.

Taking place on a small fishing island in the Bronx known as City Island, the film chronicles a family wrought with dishonesty and lives that are less than glamorous. Vince Rizzo (Andy Garcia), is the familyís patriarch and a correctional officer at a local prison. His wife Joyce (Julianna Margulies) is a legal secretary; his son Vince Jr. (Ezra Miller) is struggling with high school and a fetish for large women; and finally, his daughter Vivian (Dominik Garcia-Lorido, real daughter of Garcia) is a working stripper pretending to still be in college.

The family is constantly fighting and their respective isolation is manifested through constant, secret cigarette smoking. Vince has also secretly been taking acting classes and nurturing a Marlon Brando obsession. He tells Joyce heís playing poker to save his manhood, but she knows itís a cover for what she believes is an affair.

Vinceís life is suddenly changed when a new inmate enters his prison and he realized itís his son, Tony (Steven Strait), that he abandoned before birth. His mother is dead and with no other family to be released to, Vince takes him in under the pretense of manual labor in return. Soon Tony is playing the unlikely guardian angel to the family as they each battle their own demons. He witnesses the ongoing fights and distrust as each separately confides in him about their hidden desires and truths.

Vinceís acting class has him partnering up with Molly (Emily Mortimer) to develop a monologue about their innermost secret. Pretty convenient. Molly nurtures Vinceís talent and pushes him to tell his family. Of course, nothingís easy and soon the lies and secrets are too much for them. Tonyís presence is the much needed catalyst towards finally coming clean and healing the wounds.

Andy Garcia anchors an above average cast, playing a middle-age man still pursuing his dreams. It suffers from a story that doesnít quite payoff what it sets up, and the moral of pursuing dreams and being honest is dry and clichťd. De Felitta injects enough humor and heart to make it enjoyable but it doesnít stick once itís over.