City Island Review

Andy Garcia is an actor. Well, we all knew that, but he’s playing an actor here, or at least a secretive one. He lives in the title town, a sort of hole-in-the-wall dwarfed by the rest of New York. It’s cozy, but heated.

Vince (Garcia) is keeping his acting lessons a secret, creating an added layer of tension between him and his wife, further separating his family. She believes he’s cheating, but neither of them know the larger picture. Their son is addicted to internet porn, their daughter is a stripper, and Vince’s son from a previous relationship is a prison inmate.

This all breaks down a number of emotional barriers, yet amazingly, Ramond De Felitta’s script and direction points to comedy at every possible proper moment. Never does a heated argument feel mistimed or out of place as their son casually sits on the roof accepting it as normal. He’s so used to it, hiding his own secret in the process, he just goes with the flow.

City Island is filled with assumptions, gorgeous location shooting, and various breakdowns. It’s paced well, the character development in the beginning a bit sluggish, but beneficial to the rest of the film. It establishes that emotional layer while providing a hint of mystery.

The final 10-minutes of the film, all of the secrets out in the open, drastic misunderstandings that nearly lead to murder, and a frenzied chaos are hilarious. It’s awkward, yet delightfully so, weirdly charming in a way that everyone is finally free of their stress in their own way whether they were ready or not.

It’s that perfect indie comedy finish, although it’s not just comedy for the sake of it. It’s well built, delivered with precision timing, and a layer of drama behind it that drives the narrative forward. It makes City Island feel more than conventional, even a little gutsy, mixing the genres precisely with little fear as to whether or not it will work.

Movie ★★★★☆ 

Anchor Bay delivers an AVC encode for City Island, and bluntly put, it’s rather terrible. There is an obvious level of unnecessary processing at work here, the opening frames appearing oddly smooth and lacking definition. It gets worse from there.

The color scheme at work is warmly tinted, leaving flesh tones a rather garish, bright orange. That can understandably be the work of a digital intermediate gone haywire, but this grain structure, with its noisy, compressed appearance is this encode failing miserably.

Compression is one of the enemies at work here, Alan Arkin’s face at 10:35 carrying some significant blocking that is hard to miss with the general lack of detail on display. This holds true for the majority of scenes, close-ups rough and unclean. Clarity is a premium, hindering the photography as fine lines flicker constantly (car grills, boats in the water) and facial detail appears coarse. A layer of sharpening is visible as well, leading to ringing and a slight level of edge enhancement.

That is assuming facial detail shows up at all, limited to the extreme close-ups, Steven Strait at 24:23 being that rare exception. Distance shots of any kind wreak havoc on the visuals, 28:29 being a prime example. Black levels tend to crush shadow detail, prevalent inside the home before the finale heads outside. Despite the cinematography, there is little to say for this encode, inexcusable for a modern film, especially since it looks nothing like film at all.

Video ★★☆☆☆ 

Anchor Bay adds an uncompressed PCM mix for the audio portion of the disc, and since this is all crammed onto a BD-25, maybe that’s the source of the video problems. Regardless, the PCM effort is technically proficient, delivering clean, well resolved dialogue. It sits firmly in the center, the stereo channels not getting much of anything to do beyond some soft waves during a few conversations near the beach.

The soundtrack takes a fairly large stage, but is reserved properly as to not overwhelm any aspect of the audio. A few brief scenes inside a strip club offer a bit of work for the subwoofer, nice tightly wound bass that satisfies during its brief appearance. There is a lack of ambiance at work, shots on the streets or near the beach barely pushing anything into the surrounds.

Audio ★★★★☆ 

Extras provide a sit down chat with the key cast members over a meal that lasts for a bit over 16-minutes, followed by a string of deleted scenes, 15-minutes worth. Trailers are left.

Extras ★☆☆☆☆