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This film begins with the Glenn Close character, a famous actress who could be Close herself, giving a master class in Shakespeare to a bunch of Juilliard acting students, in which she laments the lack of passion she sees in their performances and, more broadly, in the world she inhabits. Which is a fitting, and ironic, prologue for a movie that looks at the ennui of urban lives and the emotional earthquakes that disrupt them. This is a contemporary New York character-driven drama, but it reminds me of a 1970s movie -- in a good way. There are slightly retro split screens, long-lens conversations like mid-period Woody Allen movies, and a sense of lightness in the directing style that never becomes slickness. It's also refreshing to see an independent film that doesn't completely deteriorate in the third act -- it's almost become taboo to tell a story that is satisfying in the world of independent film, because it's seen as a concession to Hollywood. But this manages to do it in a convincing way without selling out to the forces of cheesiness or convention.
(This is based on a preview screening -- movie may have changed). I went to this not knowing what to expect and came away wanting to see it again. The movie takes place over 24 hours in Manhattan and follows various characters whose lives eventually interconnect. Glenn Close seems to be playing a version of herself -- a NY stage and film actress -- and she's brilliant at it. And there's no Cruella or Stepford Wives mugging: she's real and vulnerable. The surprise, though, is that the younger actors hold their own against her -- James Marsden (it's nice to see him act without those XMen glasses), Elizabeth Banks (who I didn't know but was apparently Jeff Bridges' wife in Seabiscuit) and Jesse Bradford all carve out their own niches in the story. And it's a treat to see cameos by Isabella Rossellini, Rufus Wainwright (musical genius), Thomas Lennon (who is Dingle on Reno 911) and others. A really satisfying film.
Decepcion and secrecy seems to be the root of the burden Jonathan is
carrying in his troubled soul. During the course of a few hours he will
have to face the truth about himself as his past comes back to haunt
him in ways he didn't realize it would affect him.
Amy Fox has opened up her play by writing a wonderful screen treatment that Chris Terrio, the young and multi talented director presents for us with great panache. Ms. Fox created strong characters that come alive in the film. We are taken to some of Manhattan's rooftops and terraces to get a first rate account of people trying to deal with real problems. A point the film is trying to make is about how well do we know people close to us, even those we think we are in love with.
At the center of the movie is Elizabeth, who is living with Jonathan. They are planning to get married. Elizabeth is a talented photographer who is a free lancer. Jonathan is Jewish, but she is not; he wants her to go to see the Rabbi who is going to marry them. It's clear they are not at the same wave length, and not because they come from different religious backgrounds.
Diane, Elizabeth's mother, is a much admired actress in the New York stage. She has an eye for spotting handsome young men, as it's the case when she auditions Alec, a young actor that wants to be in a play she is going to direct. It's clear she likes him for other non acting role as well. Diane and her present husband are married for appearances sake, as we get to see him in action with another woman.
"Heights" makes an interesting point in showing how inter connected all these characters are and how a small, innocent incident, will unravel things as Elizabeth gets to see first hand how wrong she has been about the man she is going to marry.
Glenn Close, as Diana, makes an amazing appearance in the film. She is such an elegant performer that knows well what makes Diana act the way she does. She is not a diva, on the contrary, she seems to be a grounded woman whose love for her daughter is clear. Elizabeth Banks is wonderful as Diana's daughter, Isabel.
The surprise of the film came via George Segal, who as Rabbi Mendel, clearly sees what's troubling Jonathan. Mr. Segal is a welcome sight in the film after being absent so long. James Marsden, Jesse Bradford, Rufus Wainwright, Eric Bogosian, Michael Murphy and a lot of New York based stage actors are seen in minor, but effective roles.
This film clearly demonstrates the talent of Chris Terrio bringing all these actors together to do ensemble work. Mr. Terrio is lucky to be working with Jim Denault who has photographed the film with such an elegant style. Also the music by Ben Butler and Martin Erskine enhances the film.
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
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
Heights is, at its most basic, an exploration of desires. The
characters around whom the movie revolves think they know, at the
beginning, where they're headed, what will happen to them, what they
want to happen to them. But as the movie progresses, their certainties
are challenged and sometimes swept away entirely, and their carefully
constructed lives begin to unravel.
Glenn Close is Diana, a brilliant 40-something Shakespearean actress and somewhat irresponsible mother. Her open marriage once seemed like a terrific idea--have your fun on the side, have a loving husband at home--but as her "loving husband" becomes more and more deeply involved with another woman, she begins to realize just how unfulfilling that philosophy is.
Diana's daughter is played by Elizabeth Banks, in a very Scarlett Johanssen-esquire role. Isabel is a struggling photographer who makes ends meet by taking wedding pictures, while still trying to pursue a more serious career. Her second thoughts begin to appear when her upcoming wedding to Jonathan becomes an obstacle to a once-in-a-lifetime chance to use her talent. Jonathan himself has a past he's desperate to hide, potentially ruinous secrets he's working to keep from his wife-to-be.
The situations are strung together by the existence of a never-seen photographer named Benjamin Stone, who is scheduled for an exhibition in a few weeks. A man named Peter, who we are given to understand is Benjamin's current flame, is tracking down his previous models (and incidentally, lovers) to compile his memoirs. His work loosely ties in the rest of the characters, providing some structure to the interlocking plot lines.
This movie has the power and appeal that you generally find in beautiful films about unhappy people. No matter how happy or hopeful you find the ending, it's still a bit of a downer, because of the raw exposure of the characters. There are uncomfortable moments when we're privy to deep-seated emotions and unsettling situations, but there are also remarkably tender moments. The acting is generally understated and simple, with a few intense moments--your basic fare from a character study movie. But the adaptation from stage to screen, though apparent, is nearly seamless, and the text translates well to film.
Highly recommended to fans of Closer and similar movies.
What I like about this film is that it moves like a panther. I feel like I'm outside of it but close enough to smell it. There is lots of intimacy and wonderful performances by everyone, some of which weren't fully comprehensible until the end. Glenn Close is an amazing person to watch doing anything and it was a double treat to see her, in dark hair no less (which I loved), playing an actress going in and out of character all of the time. Elizabeth Banks grew on me - at first, I just wished it were Parker Posey (whom she reminded me of at first). But, as the film developed and I could get over that resemblance, I enjoyed her performance. Jesse Bradford, who has been showing up in a lot of interesting roles the past few years, was notable as always. I liked George Segal as the rabbi without a clue until his being exactly where and what he needed to be when it really counted. Another thing about the film overall which I really liked was that the gay, straight, and everyone in between characters were all so much more real than they usually are in film. They were all over the map and that's where we all are in real life so it was a pleasure to see that. There were nuances on top of nuances and that, too, is what most of us experience but rarely see on film. James Marsden was great as Jonathan from the beginning to the end. I really liked Rufus Wainwright's character Jeremy... reminded me of a good friend of mine. There are too many good moments in the film to list them all.
I truly enjoyed this film. I had heard so much about it online and from friends, so I finally watched it the other night. I was very impressed. It's so nice to see Glenn Close back in the limelight this past year. She is one of the best. Ms. Close was also the perfect actor to play the role of Diana Lee. She brought veracity, desperation, and charm to a character that may have otherwise been easily disliked. Desperation can be a truly likable quality in a film's character. Each one of the characters in this story had a quiet desperation about them. Desperation and denial. Key aspects of all human lives. I challenge anyone to tell me these were not realistic characters. The story itself or the situations they were put into, maybe not. You have a famed actress who has everything except a stable relationship with her husband, a struggling photo journalist slowly realizing her life isn't a perfect as it seems, a youthful lawyer seeking the perfect way to forget himself, and a young actor needing more than just a steady gig onstage. I highly recommend this film. You'll come away feeling something, and that is the most important thing.
Heights is an independent film starring Glenn Close & featuring Up &
coming actors from TV & film, Many of who I did not recognize.
We follow a small group of people for one full day,In one way or another they are all connected.
This is an intelligent well written script, very well acted, You (I at least) had a feeling that either I know or would like to know each member of the cast.
There are all sorts of relationships here,including very well handled gay ones.
Being an independent film with no special effects, it did not play in too many theatres. This is one of the tragedies of current film distribution. I saw it on cable TV, . It is available for rent.
I highly recommend this film. You will not be disappointed.
Rating ***1/2 out of 4, 92 points out of 10, IMDb 9 out of 10.
HEIGHTS ***** A cross between 'Playing By Heart' and 'The Ice Storm', 'Heights' is a ferociously clever montage of character triumph and fumble, played within an aura of amorality and dark secrecy. Callaborators Chris Turrio and Amy Fox seem to have the simple intention of penetrating an interplay of character dynamic to the audience, making sense and importance out of each scene, and reaching a faithful finale. The film's quasi-surreal blend of musical score (Ben Butler, Martin Erskine) and direction (Turrio) makes the story seem more complicated than it really is because, in truth, the viewer can relate to its societal or interpersonal issues in a degree. The story presents a search one takes in finding something more fulfilling when life has either grown weary or boring. The densely layered characters all have this hunger, with modulated performances that govern the transition between normal thinking and obscure behavior amid their struggles. Within the famous theater actress (Glenn Close), who has skill and a passion for her work, we sense delicate vulnerability due to an impacting marital issue she's facing. Her daughter (Elizabeth Banks) has troubles of her own: Finessing her decisions between the welfare of others and meeting her own needs, particularly in terms of whether to marry a burdened attorney (James Marsden). I don't believe it's a film to take lightly, but it's definitely a rewarding viewing, with accolades deserved by all involved.
The last of Ismail Merchant's films, set in New York City, is a
voyeuristic journey into the interlocking lives of five people
struggling in their relationships and in their own skins. An actress, a
photographer, a lawyer, a wannabe, a journalist - "Heights" is a
montage of New York characters, some intriguing, some as dull as
dishwater. In fact, Glenn Close admits as much, at the very beginning
of the film. Most of us, she says to a group of Juilliard students, are
like "tap water," we lack passion, electricity, and the will to take
Close's character, Diana, a famous veteran of the Broadway stage, who specializes in Shakespeare, fails to take her own advice and is in fact tiptoeing around the open affair her husband is having with her understudy. She is, however, the most fearless of all the characters in Heights. She is as sassy as Mrs. Robinson and as layered as the Lady Macbeth she plays on stage. And, with Glenn Close in a role like this, you're almost begging for some over the top theatrics. But Close delights, instead, by grounding this potential caricature and pulls off a riveting and realistic performance.
This is in contrast to Elizabeth Banks, whose portrayal of Diana's daughter, Isabel, is dry, simplistic and not half as artful as the performances seen in Closer. One critic compared this film about modern relationships to Mike Nichols'unforgiving drama about the same thing. Heights, however, suffers, with a couple of wimpy characters who don't pull their weight. The problem isn't so much Banks, as it is the script. The character Isabel is a little bit too written. She is the stereotype of a young, New York, professional: a photographer who graduated from Yale, smokes, but is trying to quit, cohabitates with a young lawyer fiancée (James Marsden) in a Manhattan apartment, dreams of shooting for the Times, has an actress for a mother and is having second thoughts about her Manhattan wedding. It's all very New York and looks like fertile ground for character development but, as it turns out, it's all very uninspired.
If the film smacks of its stage play routes anywhere, it's in its representation of Isabel, not in the thick stage references in Close's scenes. Isabel is a walking character description who only needs to glance in the mirror to remind herself of what a wicked bore she is supposed to be. Banks can play insipid to perfection, but one wonders if someone else might have added a little more nuance and life to the cardboard cut-out writer Amy Fox and director Chris Terrio shafted her with. Also, why should we care about such an empty navel-gazing soul? The same goes for John Light's character, the journalist who keeps pestering Marsden and Banks about skeletons, and other things, in the closet.
Yes - about half-way through "Heights," it becomes clear that resolutions to the interweaving plots are all going to focus on Isabel and her fiancée, which is a disappointing turn of events because that particular character is so lackluster. I would've preferred it if the spotlight fell more on the enigmatic Jesse Bradford, the pitch perfect Isabella Rossellini or Glenn Close. The only thing about Banks's performance that really shines is her hair. Prettiness simply doesn't cut it, though. Not in this film, which is trying to be the opposite of superficial. "Heights" is a good effort, but the best thing about the film might be the shots of New York City, which are gritty and gorgeous as always.
Official Site: http://www.sonyclassics.com/heights/
Copyright (c) 2005 by Lauren Simpson
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