Before telling you how much I enjoyed City Island, I should tell you that I have never been a big Andy Garcia fan. He’s always seemed to be a little uncomfortable, especially in scenes where he emoted, or should I say over-emoted. However I started liking him, believe it or not, in the Ocean’s 11-13 movies—Garcia’s appearances as the powerful casino owner exhibited menace as a well as a welcome sense of humor. Now with his role as a prison guard who dreams of being an actor, Garcia has finally turned me into a full fan.
He gives an amusing, heartfelt, engaging performance in a lovely film (that he co-produced) about an affectionately dysfunctional family of “clam-diggers” (City Island slang for people born on City Island)—I mean, they would be affectionateif they weren’t keeping so many secrets from each other. I really don’t want to reveal much of the plot—suffice it to say that Juliana Marguiles is sexy and funny as Garcia’s wife (who thinks he’s having an affair); Steven Strait is amusingly bemused as a young convict sprung by Garcia for reasons unknown, and Emily Mortimer, so steely in the aforementioned Harry Brown, is thoroughly winning as Garcia’s lovely acting partner who gently nudges Garcia to follow his dreams. Alan Arkin is also on hand as an acting coach with a hilarious harangue directed at actors (like Brando) who unnecessarily pause. Speaking of Brando, Garcia’s impression late in the film is so hysterical it almost made me fall off my quite comfortable seat. City Island is a small film in terms of budget, but it’s got an intelligent, amusing script, confident direction (both by Raymond De Felitta) and a cast working at the top of their game. It’s a movie that has been gaining a wider release, and deservedly so, as it’s one of the most thoroughly enjoyable movies I’ve seen in a while.