Leonard Cohen: Bird on a Wire
Palmer's film is that rare concert doc that isn't for established fans only.
Vince is a man with a dream. Marlon Brando is his god. He would like to become an actor. This is not likely. He's well into his 40s, a prison guard living with his family on City Island, a bucolic outcrop of the Bronx known mostly to its residents. Telling his wife he's going to a poker game, Vince attends acting classes in Manhattan. In one class, Vince creates a spot-on imitation, not of Marlon Brando, but of bad Brando imitators.
Vince, played by Andy Garcia with brawny blue-collar dialogue, is married to Joyce (Julianna Margulies), who's convinced the poker games mean a mistress. His children hide secret lives. His daughter, Vivian (Dominik Garcia-Lorido), has dropped out of college and is working as a stripper in hopes of saving money to reapply. His son, Vinnie (Ezra Miller), is hooked not just on any old Internet porn, but on sites featuring fat women who eat on camera. The younger son in so many movie families is somehow weird.
Two life-changing experiences happen to Vince. At work, he gets a new prisoner whose name he has reason to recognize. He pulls the kid's file to confirm it: Tony (Steven Strait) is the son he fathered in a long-ago affair. Meanwhile, in acting class, his teacher (Alan Arkin) assigns the students to pair up and share their biggest secret in order to prepare for a monologue. He draws Molly (Emily Mortimer), who slowly coaxes this secret from him. They meet often in the city — not to have an affair, but because they become friends and confidants.
Tony is eligible to be released into the community, but has no family member to sign for him. Vince determines to bring him home for a month. This is the catalyst for upheaval in the long-established pattern of his life. "City Island," written and directed by Raymond de Felitta, has a serious side but is essentially a human comedy, at times almost a gentle farce, as discoveries and revelations drop like explosives. You can imagine this story as the outline for an opera.