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City Island – The Best Movie You’ve (Probably) Never Heard Of

April 20, 2010

This weekend I agreed to see City Island even though I’d never heard of it. And after seeing it, I can’t believe more people aren’t heading in droves to catch this exceptional flick (which just so happened to win the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival Audience Award).

The movie takes place in – you guessed it – City Island, which is an actual island off the Bronx in New York. Right from the beginning, we learn that Vince Rizzo (played by Andy Garcia) has a secret. Specifically, he’s been taking acting classes behind his family’s back and is too ashamed and embarrassed to tell them. We later learn that the entire family has secrets of their own including wife Joyce’s smoking habit, daughter Vivian’s lost scholarship and subsequent stripping career to fund her college education, and son Vince Jr.’s obsession with over-weight women.

In a plot of Shakespearean proportions, these secrets take us on a series of twists and turns as each of the characters struggles to keep them under wraps. Along the way, we’re left wondering who will come clean first, or more likely, who will get caught first.

When Tony, Vince’s secret son from an earlier relationship, is taken in by Vince after being released from prison for drug, robbery and theft charges, we are prepared for even more lies and deceit. But as it turns out, the thief is the only honest character in the entire movie.

Contradictions like this one are a major theme throughout City Island. In fact, the name of the town in which the Rizzo family lives is riddled with inconsistencies. Being a city and an island simultaneously is as big of an identity crisis as you can get. In addition, although the movie has potentially depressing elements – a lying husband, an un-trusting wife, and a son and daughter with unhealthy preoccupations- the audience never has a chance to be saddened by these gravities because the movie is just so damn funny.

So in the spirit of coming clean, I’m letting you in on this incredible film that has managed to remain a secret. From the vibrant characters to the superb acting to the ever-twisting plot, City Island has everything a movie should. So what are you waiting for!? Go see City Island in a theater near you and help spread the word.

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