Friday, May 21, 2010

City Island and Misconceptions on North v. South

This week, one of my best Dude Friends from high school has been hanging his hat with me in Crooklyn. He's done with his fourth semester at grad school (a Syracuse poet, la-dee-da), so he ambled on down to my neck of the woods to keep me company and visit our other jerk high school friend who's just graduated law school.

"Other Jerk" High School Friend, Rusty, Me, Ashlee, Carmen, Jaclyn, Cheryl Crabb ;-)

(When I look in the mirror, all I see is: Underachiever.)

When we three buds are hanging out with our Northern friends, I think we feel remiss if we don't talk about the greatness of the South. Somehow, every conversation comes back to the wonders of Texas, even though we have no plans of living back there any time real soon.

Food? We speak of Southern specialties, and bask in our ability to tell the difference between good Tex-Mex and, well, pitiful Northern knock-offs. We've got a hold on all good music and writers, too.

As much as we three'll gossip til everyone in the room's ears are ringing, we've also got the sweetest Southern hearts (ahem); too bad you [Northerner] weren't lucky enough to grow up with the cows, spending every weekend trying to figure out how to have a guilt-free amount of fun.

So, it goes. And, I'm sure we're insufferable.

But I guess the Northern-folk do have some pride, as well. And, after I saw "City Island" a few weeks ago, I realized that while I've lived in New York for all-too-long now, when someone makes a movie about a fictional place nearabouts where you grew up, no matter if it's North or South, we all have loyalties. If you feel a movie slights you and your community, you might take umbrage.

Food Critic thought "City Island" encapsulated much too many stereotypes of Long Island culture to whet his palate.

I thought City Island was pretty great; after I saw it, I called Mama G/Brother G to tell them to get to the nearest theater because they'd surely appreciate the film. It was on limited release at the time, so there's the (one-and-only) knock against the South, but I gave them the gist of the movie.

Andy Garcia plays Vince Rizzo, a corrections officer (he reminds us of the titular distinction between "corrections officer" and "prison guard," or, I don't know, "clink manager" multiple times) during the day, an aspiring actor by night. Julianna Margulies plays Vince's suspicious wife, Joyce. And, for a former "ER" devotee (ca. 1994), it was nice to see her on the big screen.

Emily Mortimer plays Molly, a lady who's in Vince's acting class -- and, she's really sweet as can be and it was comforting that her friendship with Vince doesn't lapse into a typical philandering affair (because I don't like feelings). Rather, the joke falls more on the Vince/Joyce relationship--they have a tightly-knit family (dysfunctional, of course, but still close) yet Vince is too embarrassed to tell his wife that he's taking acting classes.

Their son, Ezra Miller (of TV's "Californication," "Royal Pains"), is endearing in his horrible awkwardness; his best line, with regards to his infatuation with obese young ladies, pertains to wanting to feed his next-door Love donuts.

Ezra, "Donuts," Miller

I don't normally chuckle at those scenes, but in this case, it was out-of-the-blue and the chuckles were certainly warranted.

The film really spins a good little tale about family dysfunction that dissuades you from being cynical, yet lets you sigh in relief about your own familial troubles.

While on the job in the jailhouse, Vince discovers a son whose whereabouts were a mystery; he brings him home, and that beauty of an actor (Steven Strait, or Tony Nardella in the film) is someone who'll--crossing my toes--be gracing my dreams in some fictional future.

I thought the movie was pithy, cute, dysfunctional (not in a "Greenberg" way) and overall "real."

That said, if I were from the NY-area, I might feel how I felt when "Varsity Blues" came out, years ago. That is, I might feel that they got the whole story wrong.

But, for me, [Northern family-dynamics] ignorance is bliss.

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