Based on a novel called "Heroic Measures," it was renamed "Life Itself," then "Ruth and Alex," then "5 Flights Up." See more »
The central characters say (two times) that they are buying an apartment on 1st Avenue and 77th Street and when they enter the apartment (also two times) it's clearly off Amsterdam Avenue on Cathedral Parkway, which is around 110th Street in West Harlem/Morningside Heights - more than 2 miles from where they are supposed to be. These two neighborhoods don't look alike at all. See more »
Who would have thought that the whole of my life's work would be worth less than the room it was painted in?
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There are several ways to create dramatic interest in film, not all are reliant on the old theatrical modes. There are docudramas and movies that are like magazine stories, which narrate stories over several decades to give a complete tale.
Scorsese said once that he thought American movies were more like magazine articles with pictures in that they told a story rather than created drama. From the director of "Casino", which really is the magazine style movie par excellence, that is an insight.
It is possible to create tension and engagement with this style, even when reduced to a small episodic tale. In books this can work well because the author does the meta-narration, which is the interpretation of action. It is a difficult task to make cinematic and so it is with 5 Flights Up, or Ruth and Alex.
While this style may work on the page, in that clear, bland, non-style of glossy magazine commercial fiction, its lack of a center leaves the movie vacuous. Superficially, the story of moving apartments and juggling brokers might seem enough but it isn't. It's too mundane and property is a weak idea to make an entire movie function. Imagine if Lady Macbeth and the Thane of Cawdor had got into a castle moving story: she preoccupied with cleaning up the blood stains for the new tenants, he unable to move all his knives, shields and swords out to make the castle look bigger.
This is a small, dull film, with all the pace and visual qualities of wallpaper paste. It has frittered the talents of its cast. Ruth and Alex is a very slight story that didn't really deserve to be made into a film and doesn't deserve anyone's time.
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