If there’s one more
movie about fathers and sons this year it will qualify as an epidemic.
City by the Sea presents a starker contrast than Road to
Perdition. All the
characters are affected by Vincent LaMarca’s (Robert De Niro)
relationships with his deceased father and his son.
LaMarca is a
detective with 20 years experience. His son, Joey Nova (James Franco),
a former standout high school quarterback, has become a drugged out
loser. Joey blames his father because LaMarca abandoned him and his
mother, LaMarca’s former wife, Maggie (Patty Lupone), when Joey was
a child, an act that drastically affects all their lives and comes to
fruition when Joey kills a drug dealer at the beginning of the film.
Before Joey is known as the suspect, LaMarca is assigned to the
Drug dealer boss,
Snake (convincingly played by Brian Taratina), finds out that Joey
killed his dealer and goes looking for him.
So Joey is hiding from both the police and a bad guy (and Snake
is a deliciously bad guy with absolutely no conscience) who wants to
kill him. Things go from bad to worse for both Joey and Vincent.
The script for City
by the Sea was written by Ken Hixon, adapted from an article by Mark
McAlary in Esquire Magazine, based on a true story, and is tightly
directed by Michael Caton-Jones. Vincent is a difficult role because
it doesn’t require prodigious emoting, like King Lear, just
sensitive, understated acting. De
Niro renders it expertly. Better, everyone in the film meets his
standard. A particular
standout is Lupone, who sizzles the few times she’s on screen.
Franco, who has been
called the “new James Dean,” maybe because, well, he won an award
for his portrayal of the old James Dean in the movie bio last year and
bore a remarkable resemblance to the original, plays Joey as Dean
might have. This is a
quirky role, the type for which Dean was known in his short,
friend, Michelle (Frances McDormand), brings an equilibrium to the
film, showing where LaMarca has become so self-absorbed he has damaged
not only the lives of his former wife and son, but his own as well.
The talents of McDormand seem wasted in this role, one of the
least demanding in the film. Casting
her in this part is like hiring Abraham Lincoln to run a McDonald’s.
Lupone’s part, consisting of substantially fewer lines, is
meatier and she handles it well enough to win an award.
Watching De Niro and
Franco spar is like seeing Andre Agassi play Leyton Hewitt in the U.S.
Open; the old master with the emerging star.
Unlike tennis, there are no losers here; and the audience is
the big winner. The scenes between the two are electric.
While the script for City By The Sea is a bit too long, somewhat slow
in parts, and fairly predictable, the acting is so good that this is