'City Island'


T he folks living in the bucolic urban fishing village of City Island in the Bronx should brace themselves for an assault of visitors if Raymond De Felitta's film gets widespread exposure. A comedy of family dysfunction that sneaks up on you despite its wholly predictable elements, "City Island" is a low-key charmer that showcases topliner Andy Garcia's underutilized comic talents. The film won the Heineken Audience Award on Sunday at the Tribeca Film Festival, where it premiered.

The story centers on the sort of eccentric family that typically populates these sorts of indie efforts. In the case of the Rizzo clan, each has a secret.

Patriarch Vince (Garcia) is a correctional officer who dreams of becoming an actor, surreptitiously taking acting classes while claiming to be playing poker with the guys. Wife Joyce (Julianna Margulies) suspects he's having an affair and begins to contemplate having one herself. Son Vinnie (Ezra Miller) has a fetish for obese women, and daughter Vivian (Dominik Garcia-Lorido) secretly works as a stripper.

But the biggest secret concerns Vince's illegitimate son Tony (Steven Strait), who he abandoned years earlier and who shows up as a prisoner in the jail where he works. Managing to secure a 30-day release for the unaware Tony, Vince brings him home to stay with his family, resulting in general confusion about his motives for everyone concerned.

Director-screenwriter De Felitta piles on the absurdities a bit thick, but his affection for the characters and the amusing situations and dialogue compensate for the many contrivances. (partialdiff)