Joanne R. (Joanne) from BRISTOL, CT Reviewed on 2/2/2009...
I thought this was an extremely well acted movie. I was completely invested in each character. Definitely a must see!
1 of 4 member(s) found this review helpful.
A Great Summer Surprise Movie
H. F. Corbin | ATLANTA, GA USA | 07/30/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In a long, hot summer of lackluster movies, HEIGHTS is a most pleasant surprise. Based on a one act play by the same name by Amy Fox, who wrote the screenplay for this Merchant Ivory production that is directed by Chis Terrio, the film stars Glenn Close as a middle-aged actress/drama teacher, Diana Lee, who is currently starring in a stage production as Lady Macbeth. The movie is all about the difficulty of relationships. Close's husband is having an affair with her younger understudy; her daughter Isabel (Elizabeth Banks) is engaged to Jonathan (James Marsden) who has some baggage that Isabel does not know about. He may not be gay but, as the T shirts say, his boyfriend Alec played by the winsome Jesse Bradford certainly is. This sophisticated plot brings these characters together in ways they don't expect. As Diana so accurately opines: it isn't six degrees of separation but more like two degrees. (Or at least two flights of stairs when she discovers that the young actor Alec lives just two floors up from her daughter and soon-to-be son-in-law in the same apartment building.)
Ms. Close, with shoulder-length black hair that makes her features very angular, emotes all over the place. There is a scene where she comforts her distraught daughter by reciting from memory the Edgar Alan Poe poem "Anabelle Lee," substituting "Isabel" throughout the poem. The scene is way over the top although it apparently works for these women since they are reduced to tears by Close's recitation. It is probably how a thespian of the likes of Diana Lee would handle such a situation.
The other actors give very fine peformances, particularly Jesse Bradford who is perfect as the young Alec. There is much subtle humor here, particularly in a scene where Jonathan, who is Jewish, and Isabel, who isn't, go to visit a rabbi, played by a very overweight George Segal, for premarital counseling. They are asked to pick up cards, read the questions on them and answer: for example, "Jonathan, how would you feel if you came home and saw Christmas lights?" Answer: "I like Christmas lights."
Although this certainly isn't the "costume" film we usually expect from Merchant Ivory-- this one is set in New York in the present-- nevertheless, the movie is beautifully filmed with an unobtrusive soundtrack and not to be missed."
Like Sideways, but more real and more sympathetic
Tom Chatt | Los Angeles, CA USA | 09/13/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Chris Terrio's Heights (adapted by Amy Fox from her stage play) tells an intriguing story of various people in Manhattan whose lives and relationships intersect in unexpected ways. The opening scene is a Julliard acting master class, with star actress Diana Lee (played by Glenn Close) interrupting two students needing improvement on their MacBeth scene, and giving an impassioned speech about how passion is missing from their performance, and from everybody's lives these days. "We put up bold fronts and a gracious face in response to seeing our husbands with other women, and then when no one is looking we cry into our soy latte," she bemoans. This set piece is of course the leitmotif for the film, as the teacher can act great Shakespeare but can't bring the advice to bear on her own life. We soon meet Diana's daughter, Isabel, a photographer, and her fiance Jonathan, a handsome Jewish professional, as well as Alec, an actor wanting to break out of the Fringe Festival, and Peter, the latest lover of the famous photographer Benjamin Stone, who has been given a tortuously cruel assignment by Vanity Fair. These characters are all going through the motions of their lives, strong gritty New Yorkers on the surface, but without passion, without really knowing themselves or those they love, and all with something eating them out from the inside. As their paths cross and their lives unravel all in one evening, it is like watching a windshield crack. One crack leads to the next, and the jagged patterns formed can fragment the light to a beautiful effect, but you can never look through the windshield the same way as before.
This film explores some of the same themes as Sideways. In Sideways, we had an actor and a poseur-writer representing the superficiality of Los Angeles culture. In Heights, we have an actress and a photographer symbolizing the contrast between appearances (or performances) and "real life" in New York City artsy circles. (The metaphor is artfully deployed, both in Glenn Close's master class scene, and later in a scene with Elizabeth Banks photographing a mother and daughter on the subway. The latter called to mind a line from Rent, "Hey artist, get your own life!", as well as other echoes from that play in which the filmmaker cannot see and the songwriter cannot hear.) The difference between Heights and Sideways is that in Heights, the characters have inner lives that we eventually get glimpses into, and can develop some sympathy for. These people are more real. Like Sideways, the setting in Heights is an essential part of the texture of the film. While the Santa Ynez wine country scenery in Sideways added a camp note to the underlying cynicism, the rooftop, skyline, and street scenes of Manhattan enhance the sense of disconnectedness-despite-proximity in Heights. Often, we only started to get inside the characters when they stepped outside onto the roof. The use of cell phones added a subtle ironic underscore to the same theme, especially between the engaged couple who carried "direct-connect" phones, but with their emotional connections falling short of their technological ones. Ultimately, both Sideways and Heights end on a note of hope, but the hope at the end of Heights seems more genuinely promising, because the characters are more real.
The performances in the film were are top-notch, starting with Glenn Close brilliant as the diva who can express Shakespeare better than herself, with a strong exterior but vulnerable inside. Elizabeth Banks is flawless as Isabel, strong but lost and later shattered, and James Marsden is wonderful as Jonathan, who thinks he knows what he wants and has it, while Jesse Bradford is great as Alec, who knows what he wants but not how to get it. A number of good performances in other parts pull together a strong ensemble, beautifully woven together in Amy Fox's story and Chris Terrio's direction. It is beautifully filmed, and there are a number of great shots where looks and expressions convey volumes without words."
"Heights" Reaches Peak
Alex Udvary | chicago, il United States | 06/24/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Chris Terrio's "Heights" follows in the tradition of such films as "Crash", "Magnolia" and others where everyone's life is effected by unknown people.
Around this time of year I found I'm at odds with most of the public. They tend to prefer such fare as "Batman Begins" and "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" while I'm in an empty theatre watching films such as this.
Isabel (Elizabeth Banks) is engaged to Jonathan (James Marsden) and the two will be married in a month. Isabel's mother, the well-known stage and film actress Diana (Glenn Close) has some doubts about the marriage. Diana feels Isabel is not ready for the married life, but Isabel does not want to hear a lecture about marriage from her mother. Diana's husband is having an affair, the two have agreed to see other people. Diana puts up the front of being okay with the arrangment, but clearly is not.
Meanwhile Alec (Jesse Bradford) is a young aspiring actor who gets his big chance to audition for Diana in a play she is directing. Alec also happens to live in the same apartment as Isabel and Jonathan, but claims not to know them. But that doesn't stop Diana from flirting with Alec.
The audience can pretty much guess what the film's big secrets are, but to me that wasn't so important because I found that I enjoyed the acting so much. Plus the movie is not really about plot twist, it's about the relationships between these people. The movie is not trying to surprise and shock us. Had this been a thriller, that would make it disappointing.
The film also creates characters that just don't seem believeable, or at least I don't know people like them. But I don't think the film wanted to create "real" people. I think it wanted to create stereotypes. I also don't question that somewhere in the world people may deal with the same issues the characters in this film deal with.
But why should you see this movie? It seems all I've done is describe the flaws of the movie. But there is much to recommend. Glenn Close is outstanding. The performance lights up the screen. It gives the movie life. Elizabeth Banks, a new face to me, reminds me of a young Elizabeth Shue. Hopefully her career will go better. In fact all of these performances are good. I also liked the tone of the film. It perfectly captures the despair these people are feeling by moving at a slow pace. The movie seems to be examing these people with intense close-ups. These aspects more than anything lead me to enjoy the film.
I don't think there will be much of an audience for this film. It is the kind of movie that can get lost in the shuffle, but if you seek it out I think most people will have the same reaction I had.
Bottom-line: Chris Terrio's debut film boast wonderful performances from Glenn Close and Elizabeth Banks. The movie works largely because of them. Has some flaws but the effect of the movie is still strong.
Serendipity as Chamber Music
Grady Harp | Los Angeles, CA United States | 11/03/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"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 dialogue 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, November 05"
I want to give this five stars, but ...
Slinky | London | 10/22/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"... I simply wanted more. Heights is a really good film, with several convincing portraits - especially Glenn Close and James Marsden. Telling the story of a group of intertwined New Yorkers over 24 hours it is adult in its themes of sexual interplay and the delights and troughs of entanglements, love and remorse.
If it were an hour longer, to develop the characters further, I'd have been even happier."