Imagine that you have been dating the same guy for a year. He's a cop, you know, the strong silent type. You keep trying to get him to open up but he won't. Then one day he tells you everything. His father was a child murderer who was executed when his son was 8 years old. The cop's wife divorced him after he hit her. He is estranged from his own son who is now a suspected cop killer. What would you do after hearing all this? If you are the girlfriend (Frances McDormand) in City By The Sea, you tell your boyfriend (Robert De Niro) that you need to think about things. The next day you drop by his apartment to bring him back his keys. Except that when he opens the door, he's holding a little kid, his grandson. Yesterday, you didn't even know he had a son let alone a grandson. Farfetched, you say? City By The Sea is based (loosely) on a true story! But it was too much for me to swallow and from the gasps I heard in the audience, maybe I wasn't the only only one.
Besides the whacked out plot, City by the Sea just isn't a great movie. I'm sure it sounded like a great idea when it was being pitched to the producer, but as usual, they don't seem to have spent any money on a writer. The only thing that saves this movie at all is the acting. De Niro and McDormand are a joy to watch. In the age-old comparison of De Niro and Pacino, I'm with De Niro all the way. He's always amazing, but he meets his match here in Frances McDormand. She is great in every role she plays but only hit the big time with Fargo. McDormand takes a little role as the girlfriend in City by the Sea, and, like I said, not much of a script and she makes it wonderful. I can't recommend this movie. It is by turns both so far fetched and yet derivative that I don't know what to say about it. The plot is so hackneyed that poor George Dzundza, who has made a career out of playing the partner of the star cop who gets killed halfway through the movie, plays the partner of the star cop who gets killed halfway through the movie. Don't get me wrong, it's nice to see George. He's very likeable although he keeps getting bigger and bigger. And James Franco, seen most recently as the son of the evil green goblin in the mega-hit Spider-Man, does a very nice job of playing De Niro's loser, drugged out son.
But what a waste. I wonder what
kind of a movie this would have been with an actual script. The other actors,
including Patti Lupone as the ex-wife and William Forsythe as Spyuder (sic)
the evil bad guy, drown in their cartoon-like roles. The direction
isn't bad. Michael Caton-Jones has directed an eclectic group of
films including some good ones, Doc
Hollywood, Memphis Belle,
and Rob Roy. So I don't
know. It's worth seeing just for De Niro and McDormand. I just
wish that Frances McDormand would leave that Coen guy and settle down with