TFF Movie #4: City Island
During the Great Depression, Americans crammed movie theaters to see something known as the "screwball comedy" combining hilarity and glamor. If Raymond De Felitta's City Island is any indication of the kind of comedy our current depression will bring, we will at least be laughing on the weekends before we go back to our million-hour-a week-jobs. It's relatively early in his career, and it's high praise I know, but writer/director De Felitta may ultimately be compared to the great movie-comedy writers of that era: Preston Sturges and George s. Kaufman.
After reading the synopsis in the Tribeca Film Fest guide, I was a bit dubious. The film seemed to combine so many things: a teen-ager with a fat-fetish, a prison guard with a secret? I thought it would be weird and quirky, a sleeper. But no, this was the funniest movie I have seen in a very long time. The audience was howling for almost the entire film. What makes the film funny is not weird unlikely situations, but that it takes something we all understand to an extreme. The comedy of City Island stems from the fact that everyone in the family is lying about something, or as the previously linked official movie website puts it, "keeping a secret." The humor and the interactions in the film reminded me of Moonstruck, another Italian-American recession-era comedy from 1987. Both films could be compared to screwball comedies because of their madcap situations and characters, but instead of the glitzy parlor comedies of that era, both films center on working-class to middle-class Italian-American families and the humor erupts in big emotional exchanges rather than the "witty repartee" of the 1930s era films.
While there is much here that draws on 30s-style comedy, there are elements that mark this film as one specifically of its time. The main character in the movie, played beautifully by Andy Garcia, is a prison guard, and one of the other major characters in the film is an ex-con. The internet and social networking also feature hilariously in the plot. I won't say more. The film does not yet have a distributor, but I believe that it will get one. I also see this film as a serious candidate for Tribeca's audience award. We shall see....