“City Island” is a story about one
family, and it would play like a grade B sitcom, except the performances
manage to hold that slim balance of believability, and the direction is just
understated enough to not overwhelm, and the script contains just enough humor
and whimsy without breaking down into farcical one-liners.
And it’s always a delicate balance when good actors (like Andy
Garcia) act badly on purpose, not so much that they wouldn’t be convincing,
but just that their dwelling on the craft of acting itself reminds us that
we’re watching acting, and therefore our suspended disbelief is in jeopardy.
And, it’s also risky to present a dysfunctional family in full
boilover; characters seem like caricatures.
And yet, this quirky little film somehow manages to hold together all
the inherent tensions. We enjoy
the family even while we wish they’d quit fooling themselves, and lying to
each other. We think there’s
some real caring, buried deep within, underneath all the sarcasm and barbed
wit and raised voices, and impetuously stalking from the dinner table in a
There’s also a quiet little tribute to
, a small fishing village tucked in a corner of
that has rarely been featured in any film.
I hope that this movie doesn’t become
everybody’s sudden hidden jewel, then the hype will overtake it and it will
no longer be the pleasant little surprise.
See it before everybody starts talking about it, and you’ll see for
yourself what a quiet gem it is. And,
against all expectations, they even pray at the end, and declare God to be
“The God of Second Chances.” I’ll
take that cinematic theology any day: everybody
is prodigal, and everyone is welcomed home.
You just may need to muck around in the mire first (Luke 15).
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Pastor, Grace