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|Index||64 reviews in total|
LIBERTY HEIGHTS (LH) is a fine addition to writer/director Barry Levinson's
series of nostalgic autobiographical Baltimore-set films. This episodic but
heartfelt comedy-drama, set in the mid-1950s, stars Adrien Brody and Ben
Foster as brothers Van and Ben Kurtzman, who come of age while grappling
with anti-Semitism, their loving dad's (Joe Mantegna) shady business
dealings (he runs both a burlesque house and a low-profile numbers racket.
My late dad, a bookie, would've loved this guy! :-), racism (Ben and his
pretty black classmate Sylvia, appealingly played by Rebekah Johnson, start
seeing each other on the sly), and classism (Van falls hard for blonde WASP
dream girl Dubbie, who turns out to be a nightmare -- a tragic figure, in
fact -- but is capably played by supermodel Carolyn Murphy in her first and,
to date, only film role that I know of). While LH isn't quite as sharp and
knowing as Levinson's modern classic DINER (with which LH would make an
interesting double feature; the DVD includes the DINER trailer, by the way),
it's rendered with great affection and attention to detail about the
characters, their world, and the changing times they're living in. For me,
the wittier moments really made the film -- Ben's anarchic streak livens
things up, to say the least! Best Ben moments: 1) his scandalizing his
family by dressing as Hitler on Halloween; 2) the act of defiance he and his
friends eventually pull at the "NO JEWS..." pool; and 3) the tender yet
chaste kiss he gives Sylvia at graduation, freaking out both sets of
parents. LH is worth a rental, at the very least!
this was a fine film, if not anything to blow one's hair back, leave one
humming, or slipping into the dialogue. The story was set in the mid-1950s,
accurately looks the part, and is actually three tales involving the three
males in a middle class family.
Yes, there is the treatment of racism and the self-consciousness that it spawns on both sides, and yes, the death throes of anti-semitism (at least among decent people). A middle-aged man finds he has outlived the world in which he came to prosper, and does not know what to do. There is something else: the "grass is always greener" hypothesis in ethnic/social class mixing. One of the protagonists meets his "shiksa goddess" and her lot, longs to cross a divide he does his best to bridge -- and finds his betters have feet of clay for all their poise and social standing.
LIBERTY HEIGHTS is in the best sense a North American story. Leaving one's ghetto, the benefits of learning to do so, and creation of a better world. Note how toward the end, the flawed and even cruel W.A.S.P. society boy becomes better for having accepted the hand of friendship of someone his father might have avoided.
In Baltimore, 1954, the Kurtzman family is a Jewish family living in
the area of Liberty Heights. Ben (Ben Foster) is a rebel teenager, who
has a crush on his black friend Sylvia (Rebekah Johnson). His college
brother Van falls in love with Dubbie (Carolyn Murphy why this
gorgeous actress has just this movie in her filmography?), a very
problematic girl. He becomes friend of Trey Tobelseted (Justin
Chambers), a young man from a very wealth family and boyfriend of
Dubbie. Nate (the excellent Joe Mantegna) is the father, who lives from
an illegal lottery of numbers. Nate loves his family and keeps them
apart of his legal problems. Ada (Bebe Neuwirth) is the mother, who
keeps the tradition of their family. Little Melvin (Orlando Jones) is a
drug dealer, who wins a fortune of US$ 100,000 (in 1954) in Nate's
lottery, raising a serious situation in the plot.
This movie is wonderful: the soundtrack, photography and costumes are marvelous. The story, about segregation of Jews and blacks and love between races, is very beautiful. The viewer will not be disappointed with this entertainment. My vote is eight.
Title (Brazil): "Ruas de Liberdade" ("Liberty Streets")
This movie is sort of like the concept of the TV show Seinfeld-- it's about nothing. By this I don't mean that it lacks substance, in fact, it has plenty, but I mean rather that it does not involve an intense plot line. It's more like a series of snapshots taken out of one family's album, like a brief recording of one year in their lives. It's as if these people were real, simply going about their lives in their times, and we got to peek in on them, and it is acted in just that way. I think it's very true to director Barry Levinson's vision, a vision that is clear upon viewing his other films that he includes with Liberty Heights as his "Baltimore" films. These include Diner, Avalon, and Tin Men. Because this is not the typical problem arises-conflict ensues-climax is reached-conclusion is found film, Levinson shows us that these people's lives were a series of ups and downs, joys and losses, that summarize American middle-class youth in all ages in history. There connections between the different walks of life and the idea of growing up and discovering diversity around you is what makes this film universal and beautiful, all without handing you morals and themes on a silver platter. This film takes a wonderfully objective viewpoint that allows you to make meaning of it rather than spelling it out for you.
From time to time one comes across remarkable films like Liberty Heights where simple story is told in extraordinary manner. This film is about the Jewish Kurtzman family, but we follow the father and his two sons as three separate stories. Each one of them having their own struggle and challenges to face. What struck me as the most amazing part of the story was the easiness of it, how it flowed and gently tackled serious issues in the community of that time. It portrait itself in a realistic manner, where there were no real baddies or large showdown, just people going through life. The performance of the actors was brilliant, with Joe Mantegna (the father), showing once more what a talent he is. This film won't leave anyone untouched. 8/10
I found "Liberty Heights" an immensely entertaining movie which shows great talent, especially actor-wise. The movie is a great portrayal of how things looked like in America in the 50's, showing religious, racial, social and other differences and also showing how these differences can easily be overcome once a person realizes(or as was the case in this movie-doesn't even consider) that different only and always means worse. Ben Foster steals the show from the first scene and Adrien Brody is in close second place. And because they had such screen persona, or power if you will, I found if distracting and a bit out of place when at the end the story shifted too much to Joe Mantegna, their movie father. I have much respect for the man, he's an immense and always fun-to-watch actor, but in this movie it was him that was overshadowed, which is ironic since HE was the one who usually did this. A great, lightheaded growing-up movie that begins and ends with a nostalgic note, once again making me wish I'd have a chance to live in that day and age. Much praise to Barry Levinson for composing "Liberty Heights". 8/10
Liberty Heights illustrates Anti Semitism and race relations in the 1950's very well. It shows how two Jewish brothers find that there is a whole different world outside their insular Jewish community. Liberty Heights is an excellent film. Barry Levinson has created a gem of a film, another of the Baltimore series.
This movie is challenging on many levels and best of all is it does not insult the viewer's intelligence with pat plot lines and easy resolutions. It is very much a slice of life movie and provokes serious thought about growing up and the meaning of prejudice and racial barriers. It is a lovely film and I have resolved to see some other efforts from Barry Levinson as his is a rare talent. He lovingly captures Baltimore in the fifties in all its facets of neighbourhoods, the cast is stellar, not a false note among them, the music is wonderful and all the plot lines come together. I felt sad that it was over, I found myself quite involved with the characters who were multi dimensional with teasing snippets of background as in the disturbed Dubbie saying to Van she did not like spending time with her father and his boyfriend. And Sylvia's family being black and wealthiest by far than the others and she was following her mother and grandmother into a Black College so she could preserve the continuance. 8 out of 10. Recommended.
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.
This was a wonderful movie about coming of age. The characters in the
were SO real, even though they were in high school in the '50s. Just
how little people change in nature.
The movie followed three story lines very well: the older brother, the younger brother, and the father. They all had difficult-to-them things to deal with and each learned something valuable in the process, both about themselves and the world in which they lived.
Integrating the three story lines was done flawlessly. The movie was also very tastefully done -- a very wholesome movie in a world of trashy movies.
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