This film is the perfect acting vehicle for each of the five main actors in it, as well as some minor actors too. Andy Garcia stars as Vince Rizzo, a corrections officer from the Bronx. Juliana Marguiles co-stars as his sassy wife Joyce. Dominik Garcia-Lorido (Andy Garcia's real-life daughter) and Ezra Miller co-star as the teenage children, Vivian and Vinny, respectively.
The plot kicks off with Vivian's return from college on spring break. It's the first time the family has gotten together. One would assume, it'd be a happy occasion. One would assume wrong.
A meal at the Rizzo household consists of the kids hating their parents, the parents hating their kids, everyone bickering at everyone else, and nobody eating. It's exascerbated by the fact that each family member has or will have a secret that they'll keep from the other family members.
At the top, I said there were five main actors. I've named four, the four that play the Rizzos who live on Bronx's City Island, but there is a fifth. Yes, every family member has a secret, but, in Vince's case, he has two. I'm not ruining anything or giving away any plot spoilers by saying one of Vince's secrets is that he has a twenty-two-year-old son named Tony. Tony is played by Steven Strait who is like a younger, beefier Adrian Grenier.
When Vince brings Tony home, it's under the most unusual of circumstances, and Vince tries his best to make things hospitable and peacemeal. Unfortunately, he can't tell his family the truth about Tony's paternity, not even to Tony. This only increases the tension at the next meal at the dining room table, which causes another family fight to break out.
Much credit and praise go to Oscar-nominated director and writer Raymond De Felitta, and all the actors for making this and all the subsequent conflicts and confrontations highly entertaining. Yes, they were seemingly over-the-top, but all involved managed to inject heartfelt feelings as well as a nice, streaming sense of humor.
Known mostly for their dramatic roles, it was nice to see Garcia (The Godfather: Part III and The Untouchables) and Marguiles (ER and The Good Wife) grapple this great comedy and really make it fly. Their performances really bolster this film. Miller and Strait are absolute scene stealers: Miller for his sarcasm and Strait for his sex appeal.
But, speaking of scene stealers, Alan Arkin guest stars as Michael Malakov. He's apart of Vince's second secret. Vince wants to be an actor, even though he's in his 50s or 60s and has never been on an audition. Malakov is Vince's drama teacher. The way he challenges and chastises his students is hilarious and heartbreaking.
Felitta's film, however, clearly embraces more of the hilarity. Just watching each of the family members maneuver in and out of their secrets kept me laughing. From smoking to stripping, the range of entanglements are close to innocuous and rise to absolutely scandalous.
Yet, it's clear that Felitta has affection for each of his characters. He gives equal weight to all and fully fleshes them or at least allows each to shine, letting the audience really get to know this family. By proxy, it's clear that Felitta also loves this area of the Bronx, which he refers to as New England by way of Washington Heights.
Felitta really gives a sense of life on City Island. He shows us the seafood industry there and how it gives breath to the people who inhabit the area. Just as some of the characters do. Felitta takes us on an Orchard Beach affair.
Emily Mortimer (Lovely & Amazing and Match Point) offers another of her charming, supporting roles. Even with Vince's pursuit of "acting" and with everyone holding onto secrets, Felitta surprisingly makes this movie about breaking down pretenses. There is a supremely well played scene where Garcia's Vince Rizzo learns it's better to be himself, especially when trying out for Scorsese film. It's again a scene that's hilarious and heartbreaking.
Five Stars out of Five
Rated PG-13 for sexual content, smoking and language