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Liberty Heights (1999)

Anti-Semitism, race relations, coming of age, and fathers and sons: in Baltimore from fall, 1954, to fall, 1955. Racial integration comes to the high school, TV is killing burlesque, and ... See full summary »

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2 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
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Yussel
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Charlie, Nate's Assistant
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Pete, Nate's Assistant
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Frania Rubinek ...
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Storyline

Anti-Semitism, race relations, coming of age, and fathers and sons: in Baltimore from fall, 1954, to fall, 1955. Racial integration comes to the high school, TV is killing burlesque, and rock and roll is pushing the Four Lads off the Hit Parade. Ben, a high school senior, and his older brother Van are exploring "the other": in Ben's case, it's friendship with Sylvia, a Black student; with Van, it's a party in the WASP part of town and falling for a debutante, Dubbie. Sylvia gives Ben tickets to a James Brown concert; Dubbie invites Van to a motel: new worlds open. Meanwhile, their dad Nate, who runs a numbers game, loses big to a small-time pusher, Little Melvin; a partnership ensues. Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

You're only young once, but you remember forever.

Genres:

Drama | Music | Romance

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for crude language and sex-related material | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Details

Official Sites:

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Release Date:

31 December 1999 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Dometi slobode  »

Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$95,247 (USA) (19 November 1999)

Gross:

$3,732,398 (USA) (31 March 2000)
 »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

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Color:

(Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

According to 'Barry Levinson', this film came out of a derogatory comment about Dustin Hoffman's character in Sphere (1998). The critic's comment got Levinson thinking about his experiences growing up in Baltimore, and Liberty Heights was born. See more »

Goofs

Movie was set in 1954 yet there is a 1957 Buick parked outside the synagogue. See more »

Quotes

Ben Kurtzman: By the way, where's the jawbone of the ass?
Ada Kurtzman: What?
Ben Kurtzman: The jawbone of the ass, where is it?
Grandma Rose: Is he crazy? What kind of talk is this?
Van Kurtzman: [walks in] Your ass does not have a jawbone.
Ben Kurtzman: Well, Samson slew the Philistines with the jawbone of an ass!
Ada Kurtzman: Not your ass, an animal!
Ben Kurtzman: [shocked] There's an animal called an "ass"?
Grandma Rose: [frowning] Such a mouth...
Ben Kurtzman: Look, I loved 'Samson and Delilah'. I hope they bring that movie back.
[...]
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Connections

References The Case of the Stuttering Bishop (1937) See more »

Soundtracks

Darling, Je Vous Aime Beaucoup
Written by Anna Sosenko
Performed by Nat 'King' Cole (as Nat King Cole)
Courtesy of Capitol Records
Under license from EMI-Capitol Music Special Markets
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
Liberty Heights an unassuming gem.
11 December 1999 | by (Canada) – See all my reviews

Barry Levinson's LIBERTY HEIGHTS begins telling it's story through a variety of different viewpoints, and at the outset may give off the vibe of being somewhat unfocussed, but do not be misled by the elusive opening! Although unexceptional in terms of it's standard coming of age plotline, as the film progresses it becomes increasingly thoughtful and observant. It is the small details that make LIBERTY HEIGHTS seem so rich--and I wouldn't dream of giving any of them away--but needless to say, by the end of the film anyone who remembers their childhood fondly is bound to leave the theatre with a smile on their face. In a quiet and unassuming way, the movie manages to throw out many messages to its audience. Every single subplot in the film relates back to the family. Joe Mantegna plays the racketeering patriarch of a nice uppper-middle class Jewish family that resembles a lighter version of the Corleone's in THE GODFATHER. One of the sons falls for a Catholic girl, while the other pursues the black daughter of a prominent city doctor. They all live with their grandmother who is blinded to the "gentiles" by the Holocaust. The relationships between the youngsters naturally conflict with the views of their parents, and they are forced to form their own opinions on racial boundaries.

What is so refreshing about LIBERTY HEIGHTS is that it doesn't pull obvious punches or go for the cheap thrills that more sensationalized Hollywood films normally would. Not even in a subplot with an eccentric drug dealer do the characters resort to violence as might be expected with this sort of material. The characters in LIBERTY HEIGHTS are just ordinary people in relatively ordinary situations. It is not a fast paced film, some may find the midsection to be a little over-inflated. Personally I enjoyed the film a great deal. It grew on me to the point that by the end I was drawn to tears. Even fully aware of its old fashioned Hollywood corniness the movie touched a nerve with me. I found the performances very moving--in particular that of young Ben Foster, who we should exepect to see again in the near future. Adrien Brody is appealing and sympathetic as the eldest son. Bebe Neuwirth manages to create some interesting moments in her role as matriarch of the Kurtzman family--particularly in the final scene. LIBERTY HEIGHTS is not a perfect film to be sure, but in a season with a shortage of intelligent family oriented films LIBERTY HEIGHTS is a solid bet.


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