For a labor of love like CITY ISLAND, Raymond De Felitta was happy to bide his time, waiting for the right actor, Andy Garcia as his lead, man with a secret Vince Rizzo. When I talked with de Felitta by phone on March 12, 2010, why only a great actor can make bad acting fun, how Brando insinuated himself into the script via Garcia’s clever planning, and the way being a jazz musician influences a filmmaking style all had their moment.
The Rizzo Family of CITY ISLAND is a family of secret smokers. That smoke, though, is just a screen for the many other secrets that lurk amid this close-knit but volatile family that has no problem expressing itself, but not as much talent sharing confidences. In fact, most of the secrets, smoking included, are the result of the high regard they have for the other’s opinion. In short, they lie because they care.
Garcia give a tour de force performance in a film full of them. He is the soul of the film, playing Vince’s emotional journey close to the vest, but like a virtuoso, finding the pointed humor in the man’s passion for his family from which everything else springs, while never for a moment making light of that passion. When Vince finally tells Molly his secret about Tonys parentage, the gently played mix of sorrow and acceptance is as palpable as the frustrated familiarity mixed with unconditional love that he has for Vince Jr.’s imaginative snarkiness, Vivian’s distance, and the shorthand relationship into which he and Joyce have settled. He makes Vince’s audition for a minor role into an unexpected moment of hysterical self-revelation that rings true with its awkwardness and go-for-broke optimism.
CITY ISLAND is one of the best films of 2010. It finds the absolute magic of family life gone right, even as it seems to be going very, very wrong. This is the best kind of storytelling, and engaging, honest comedy of errors that, above all, lets the audience find that spark of self-recognition, not with specific events, but with the heart behind them.