The manic family comedy City Island aims to be a sort of opéra bouffe sung in the key of the Bronx - well, City Island, to be exact, a tiny, scenic fishing village improbably plunked down in New York's uppermost borough.
Andy Garcia, who also produced, plays Vince Rizzo, a prison guard who secretly wants to be an actor. He reads Brando biographies in the bathroom and attends acting classes in the city under the cover of poker night with the boys. His haranguing wife, Joyce (Julianna Margulies, ear-bleedingly shrill), suspects an affair but won't come out and say it, a quality that runs in the family. Daughter Vivian (Dominik García-Lorido) got kicked out of school but isn't telling, teenage son Vince Jr. (Ezra Miller) squirrels away in his room to cruise the web for fat-lady porn, and everyone, it appears, is secretly a smoker.
All of these deceptions read like peccadilloes, though, when compared to the whopper of a lie Vince brings home to dinner one day, packaged in the scruffy, tatted frame of Tony (Steven Strait), an ex-con in whom Vince has taken a special interest. As a comedy of errors, City Island expends a lot of energy spinning the action ever zanier and zanier, to no great benefit - like a dog circling its tail to the point of exhaustion.
And the filmmaking at times can be terribly clunky. Scenes are distractingly chopped, and a grainy, poorly lit nighttime scene on a bridge looks like an underfunded student film. But when writer-director Raymond De Felitta dials it down, he shows strains of the same compassion, warmth and sensitivity to the complexities of family that distinguished his lovely first feature, 2000's Two Family House. City Island is far inferior, but it has a basic goodness of heart that counteracts the broadness and busyness.