Italian family drama isn't a cliché as it sounds
In the Rizzo family of Raymond De Felitta's City Island—named for the island in the Bronx populated with long-timers called Clam Diggers and those just setting down for a spell, Mussel Suckers—everyone smokes cigarettes on the downlow. It's only one of the many things they don't know about each other.
Dad Vince Rizzo (Andy Garcia) is a correctional officer who uses evening "poker games" as a ruse for taking acting classes in the city. Based on what little faith his wife Joyce ((Julianna Margulies, looking fine in her signature sharply drawn eyebrows and full Real Housewives of Long Island war paint and Velour sweatsuits) has in him, it's not a surprise he keeps his study of Marlon Brando a secret. Joyce isn't a bitch, just a tough cookie masking her vulnerability born of a long marriage now lacking passion. Their daughter Vivian (Dominik García-Lorido, Garcia's daughter in real life) keeps her dismissal from college and subsequent job dancing in her skivvies close to the bone, and son Vince Jr. (Ezra Miller) is, frankly, too smart for high school and harbors a kink for large girls.
Secrets aside, you gotta love the loud airing of grievances common in a New York Italian family. When the Rizzos sit down for Saturday family dinners, they seem to bring up the same old issues and don't get anywhere--the children have already heard that their very existence interrupted their parents' own hopes for college. The Rizzos are so busy busting chops, no one can hear what's being said over the yelling.
As cliched as this is, it takes a couple of interlopers to get the Rizzos to take a good, hard look at themselves as individuals with their own passions and, in turn, face each other's. Vince teams up with the sprightly Brit Molly (Emily Mortimer) in acting class—taught by Michael Malakov (Alan Arkin) —and finds an encouraging ear; Vince talks about the 24-year old son he abandoned before his birth, Tony Nardella (Steven Strait), who ends up a prisoner at the jail where Vince works and gets released into his custody. It's a stretch here, but Vince tells neither Tony nor his own family that he's his son, only that he "knew" Tony's mother. Staying at their house, the gorgeous Tony gets folded into the Rizzo family and exposes everyone. A good natured—and funny—look at the secrets that family members hide from each other, City Island tackles tough issues without flinching. Like Clam Diggers, Rizzos are there for the long haul.