Sunday, July 3, 2011

Something I Wasn't Gonna Write, But...

City Island.

It's an island in the Bronx, southwest of Pelham Bay Park.
It's also a movie.

I wasn't going to write about it - not because it's not a good movie, because it is - but because it's about a messed-up, dysfunctional family that gets itself sorted out in the end. And I figured, I have enough of that on my own. (don't need to talk about somebody else's.)

But then I thought: What about shame? Now, there's an interesting topic!
Why don't I say a few words about that?
(No need to feel embarrassed now.
We've all felt it.)

'Cause, see, in City Island (2009) there's this dude Vince Rizzo (Andy Garcia) who's a correctional officer (NOT a prison guard), and he's just rediscovered his first son from an early fling, from before he'd married Joyce (Julianna Margulies), who's a typical NYC stay-at-home mom and wife.

Joyce and Vince have two kids: Vince Jr. who's in high school and cares way more about his secret fetish for feeding fat girls than about getting good grades and Vivian who's in college but whose lost her scholarship and so is now taking a semester off to make the big bucks at a strip club, though she hasn't told her parents.

Besides not telling his wife that he has a son by an earlier relationship, nor telling Tony that the reason he's brought him to his home for 30 days is because he is Tony's father, Vince has another secret: He wants to be an actor.
And he's taking acting classes. With the help of his new-found friend and acting "manager" Molly, Vince tries out for a minor role in a new Martin Scorsese film and gets it. He's very nervous and doesn't know his own charm, but in trying out for the movie, his Italian-American-thug face and his Who-Do-You-Think-You-Are? tone of voice comes out naturally and impresses the judges at his first-ever audition. This for Vince is entirely unexpected! (there's an added comic impact seeing as Andy Garcia already has an impressive acting repertoire - including Godfather III and Ocean's Eleven.) But all the while Vince is telling his wife that he's going to play out to play Poker, and she thinks her husband's having an affair.

So there're a lot of secrets.
And a lot of misunderstandings.
In the end - and this is where the shame comes in - as the family's getting into another one of their rousing quarrels, the "illegitimate" son Tony chained to a telephone pole and the other son grilling meats with his two chubby girlfriends next door, everyone gets exposed.

An enraged Joyce has to admit she thinks her husband's cheating on her. An embarrassed Vince has to admit he's actually just been acting. Vivian admits to making money as a stripper. Tony learns he's actually Vince's son, which means Vince is implicitly admitting he's slept with another woman before he married Joyce. Then Joyce admits to wanting to have an affair with Tony - before she knew he was somehow sorta her step-son. And Vince Jr. is just watching and smiling. And Vince's friend Molly sneaks away, ashamed of having fled her family and pretending they didn't exist. Presumably she returns to upstate New York.

They're all ashamed because they're all made vulnerable and they all think their secrets aren't things that can be forgiven or understood.
But they're mistaken.
Once again, love wins.
And shame is dissolved in one big family group hug.

Now, isn't that nice?
Isn't that grin-tastic?

The film ends with an overhead shot of the whole family eating outside near the water at a picnic table in their back yard.

It's NYC. It's City Island. It's beautiful.
Nothing now to be ashamed of.

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