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 ...
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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
While hardly the gems that are Diner, and especially Avalon, Levinson here offers another sweet meditation on his Baltimore roots. The love story between Ben and Sylvia is especially moving to every white boy who ever fell in love with a black girl before it was acceptable, and most of the credit goes to the enchanting Rebekah Johnson. Older brother Van's travels in WASPland are more cliche-ridden, though one must salute the acting of Adrien Brody and his friend Trey, who actually make their unlikely friendship believable. Trey's deb girlfriend is pure cardboard. The real standouts here are Joe Mantegna and Orlando Jones going toe-to-toe in dangerously caricaturish territory. Both manage to pull it off. One anachronistic comment- Scribbles calls one of Nick's men the Pillsbury Jewboy--far as I know that advertising icon didn't appear till 10 years after the film's 1954-55 setting. Again, no one will call this film a classic, but seen as part of a 4 film whole (Tin Men is more the aberration than Liberty Heights) it stands proudly and pulls at these 40 year old heartstrings from a very similar North Bronx background.
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