A N.Y. Italian family with foibles, secrets

A "City Island" gathering: (from left) Steven Strait, Dominik Garcia-Lorido, Andy Garcia, Julianna Margulies, and Ezra Miller. The Rizzo clan inhabits a Bronx island enclave with a close-up view of the Manhattan skyline.

What's not to like?

In City Island, a fractious Italian American clan - the Rizzos, headed by Vince (Andy Garcia) and Joyce (Julianna Margulies, working the New Yawk accent) - keeps deep secrets, sneaks cigarettes, assembles for dinner, and then tears off in fits of rage, bowls of pasta left behind.

The teenage son (Ezra Miller) is trolling porn sites (plus-size women are his niche obsession). The college-age daughter (Dominik Garcia-Lorido, Garcia's real-life offspring) is working in a strip club, unbeknownst to Mom and Dad. And then there's the tattooed parolee whom Vince brings home from his job as a prison guard. The young and strapping Tony Nardella (Steven Strait), in jail for boosting cars, doesn't know why Vince has taken him under his wing. Nor does the rest of the family.

Secrets. A soap opera's worth.

Nicely written and directed by Raymond De Felitta, responsible for the similarly roiling Two Family House 10 years back, City Island is set in the unreal - but very real - Bronx enclave of the title: an idyllic fishing village plopped down in the water with a close-up view of the Manhattan skyline.

Laced with humor and insight, and featuring Garcia in uncharacteristically relaxed mode (even when he's yelling), City Island runs through its stockpile of impossibly melodramatic scenarios and manages to make them, and the respective Rizzos in their throes, feel genuine.

And a couple of prize scenes attest to the filmmaker's and Garcia's love for their chosen vocation: Vince is taking acting classes on the sly, and his teacher (Alan Arkin) bursts into a wonderful rant about Brando and the dangers of the dramatic pause, and then Vince improbably lands an audition for a new Scorsese/De Niro film. His screen test, which starts with a terrible Brando impression and ends in a flurry of furious improvisation, is classic.

What's not to like?

Contact movie critic Steven Rea at 215-854-5629 or srea@phillynews.com. Read his blog, "On Movies Online," at www.philly.com/philly/blogs/onmovies.

City Island

Directed by Raymond De Felitta. With Steven J. Klaszky, George Aloi, Chris Miskiewicz, Sharon Angela, Dominik García-Lorido, Emily Mortimer, Julianna Margulies, Alan Arkin, Andy Garcia, Steven Strait. Distributed by Anchor Bay Entertainment.

Running time: 1 hours, 40 minutes.

Parent's guide: PG-13 (for sexual content, smoking and language).