A former street tough returns to his Philadelphia home after a stint in the military. Back on his home turf, he once again finds himself tangling with the mob boss who was instrumental in his going off to be a soldier.
'Heights' follows five characters over 24 hours on a fall day in New York City. Isabel, a photographer, is having second thoughts about her upcoming marriage to Jonathan, a lawyer. On the same day, Isabel's mother Diana learns that her husband has a new lover and begins to re-think her life choices and her open marriage. Diana and Isabel's paths cross with Alec, a young actor, and with Peter, a journalist. As the interrelated stories proceed, the connections between the lives of the five characters begin to reveal themselves and their stories unravel. Isabel, Jonathan, Diana, Alec, and Peter must choose what kind of lives they will lead before the sun comes up on the next day. Written by
Sujit R. Varma
Often a film succeeds because of the story, or the writing, or the cast, or the direction. HEIGHTS succeeds brilliantly because of the combination of all of these elements in one of the finest films of the past few years. Beginning with the play and screenplay by Amy Fox, and as carefully and lovingly directed by Chris Terrio with a sterling cast, this film works its subtle magic of a story about serendipity and coincidences and how these alter our lives by accidental occurrences. Or are they accidental? Each of the well-drawn characters in this story is functioning at a level that involves the masks behind which we each hide our personal secrets or idiosyncrasies: each character is either at a 'height' or approaching one, and it is the interplay of these disparate people that creates phrases of music which ultimately combine in a series of themes and variations like a well-composed work of chamber music. And this all occurs within a twenty-four hour period in Manhattan.
Diana (Glenn Close) is the reigning New York actress currently preparing a production of 'Macbeth' with friend director Henry (Eric Bagosian) while simultaneously giving Master Classes at Julliard to a group of acting students who she declares lack passion! Diana's 'height' is challenged by her current anxiety over her open-marriage husband's rather serious affair with one of her students. She holds auditions and a young, struggling, and handsome actor Alec (Jesse Bradford) catches her interest and she sees in him the passion she craves and invites him to her party that evening. Alec, fearful of his chance at his 'height', hesitantly accepts.
Meanwhile Diana's photographer daughter Isabel (Elizabeth Banks) is fired from her portrait job only to be offered an important gig in Eastern Europe by an ex-lover, offering Isabel a chance at her own 'height'. Isabel is engaged to young ambitious lawyer Jonathan (James Marsden remembered for this superb acting in 'The 24th Day') who in preparing to marry a non-Jew is in counseling with his Rabbi (George Segal): there are obviously stresses on the incipient marriage that Jonathan has not revealed.
In another area of Manhattan, at Vanity Fair, Liz (Isabella Rosselini) taps reporter Peter (John Light) to do a story on a famous and gifted photographer known for bedding his nude male models. Peter is to interview each of the models for the story, and one of those models happens to be Jonathan! The entire group comes together at Diana's party and there the secrets of each of the characters gradually surface in coincidental ways and the story of how each of these interesting but tainted people respond to discoveries makes for the resolution of the story. Director Terrio uses finely honed techniques to slowly introduce each character, adding layers of information gradually, until the magnitude of these coincidences becomes dramatically tense and fascinating. This film is like standing in a darkroom watching a photograph slowly develop, revealing more of the details with each washing, until the final picture is filled with extraordinary details - some expected, others not. The cast is wholly superb and the degree of ensemble acting surpasses that of films of the recent past. If there is a criticism of the film it is a minor one: the ambient sound and musical scoring at times cover the dialog which make us strain to hear the whispered interchanges. But this is a brilliant film that immediately assumes a role in the pantheon of fine cinematic art. Highly recommended. Grady Harp
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