US Release Date: 06-17-2005
Directed by: Chris Terrio
- Glenn Close, as
- Elizabeth Banks, as
- James Marsden, as
- Jesse Bradford, as
- Thomas Lennon, as
- Matthew Davis, as
- John Light, as
- Isabella Rossellini, as
- Susan Malick, as
- George Segal, as
- Rabbi Mendel
- Andrew Howard, as
- Jim Parsons, as
- Michael Murphy, as
- Rufus Wainwright, as
- Denis O'Hare, as
- Eric Bogosian as
Glenn Close and Elizabeth Banks in Heights.
Heights tells the story of five people whose lives intertwine over one day in New York City. Play like in its structure, it packs a great deal of emotion and life changing events into a 24-hour period, which is a testament to first time screenwriter Amy Fox who based the film upon her play. It also features a talented group of well-known and not so well known actors who breathe life into the drama.
Elizabeth Banks stars as Isabel, the character at the center of the story. A photographer on the verge of marriage whose experiencing second thoughts about the direction of her life. Her fiancé Jonathan (Marsden) is dealing with his own issues, which include a secret that he's kept from Isabel. Isabel's mother Diana (Close), is an awarding winning actress and director who's discovered today, her birthday, that her husband has taken another lover. Alec (Bradford), who lives in the same building as Isabel and Jonathan, has just landed an audition in Diana's latest play. And finally, Peter (Light), a British journalist on assignment in New York, discovers his own connection to the group. While the group of five varies in their personal lives and occupations, all of them are at a crossroads in their lives and will face personal choices before the sun comes up on the following day.
The sixth main character in the story is the city itself. Unlike so many movies set in New York, this one is actually filmed in the city and it shows. Several key scenes take place on the rooftops of buildings and with the city looming large in the background; you are left with the impression that this is the only place in the world where all of these characters would ever find a connection.
Apart from the sharp and intelligent script, it is the cast of actors that really make this movie shine. Close is superb as Diana, a talented actress and protective mother whose failure in her personal life is as pronounced as her success in her professional one. It's early for an Oscar mention, but she truly deserves a supporting nomination for this role. Banks, at the center of the emotional storm, also gives a riveting performance as a woman caught between her youth and her maturity. Truly though, there's not a sour performance in the bunch, right down to small and humorous part for George Segal as the Rabbi giving marital advice to Isabel and Jonathan.
Smart and satisfying, Heights manages to weave together the story of five people into one complete and highly enjoyable movie that will stay with you.
Elizabeth Banks and James Marsden in Heights.
The five main characters that Scott wrote of all have one major quality in common: None can see themselves for what they really are. All of them walk through life with blinders on to what is in their very own soul. Early in the movie, Close's character gives a speech to an acting class where she says we have all lost our passion. The characters in this movie have all lost their passion because they have strayed from the path their lives were meant to take.
Isabel wants to get married only to hide from her mother and her failings. Jonathan wants to get married to keep his secret. Diana wants to put the blame on her husband when she in fact is just as much a horn dog as he is and just as much to blame for their marriage being in crisis.
Diana likes quoting Shakespeare through out the movie. The one line she needed to say, no scream, to everyone is, "To thine own self be true." None of these people express their real desires. They all walk around acting like victims of their life. They all pretend to be something they are not.
Heights is the gayest movie this side of Brokeback Mountain. All of the main male characters are homosexuals. That is all fine and dandy except that the few straight male characters are merely stereotypes. Diana's husband is having an affair with a younger woman. Jonathan's co-worker is there just to point out cute girls and talk about a stupid boxing pen. Mark is the frat boy who never grew up. Ian is the knight in shining armor. He takes a knife for Isabel during a mugging. Except for that, Heights is a great film based around interesting, although depressing, characters.
George Segal and Elizabeth Banks in Heights.
I didn't find these characters depressing. They have all reached a critical crossroads in their lives but I never got the feeling they were all deeply unhappy. Unsatisfied, yes, depressed, no. I like how the script intertwines their lives. When Diana Lee mentions to Alec that her daughter lives in the same apartment building as him, he reacts suspiciously, but not for the reasons the audience will at first assume. I know I was thrown off track.
I like movies where gay characters don't exhibit stereotypically effeminate mannerisms. Not that there's anything wrong with that. It's just that so rarely do I see reflected on the screen average guys that just happen to be gay without mincing around quoting Oscar Wilde, singing show tunes and bitching about men to their heterosexual female BFF. As far as I know both James Marsden and Jesse Bradford are straight in real life. I applaud them for not playing these characters as walking gay cliches.
I agree with Scott that Glenn Close acts her head off in the very theatrical role of the legendary Diana Lee. She is so dramatic and intense. Her opening scene is quite funny. When one of her students pulls a gun during a scene from Macbeth she snaps, “Get a dagger, for Christ's sake! This is Shakespeare, it's not The Sopranos.” The movie makes it abundantly clear she is a very famous movie star as well as a theater legend. At one point Alec's friend asks him if Diana showed him her Oscars.
Producer Ismail Merchant insisted on Jonathan and Alec's happy ending. Two different versions were filmed but the famous, prolific (and openly gay) producer explained his decision thusly, “There are already too many movies where gay men get punished at the end.” Eric mentioned Brokeback Mountain which is a prime example of what he meant (but don't get me wrong, I love that tragically romantic movie).
George Segal offers some very sage advice about relationships to Jonathan. He tells him, “You can't change the past. Whatever the truth is now, that's the ballgame. That's it. You tell her what happened. Then you both can go on.” Secrets can infect a marriage and cause it to rot. “Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds.” Diana Lee is fond of quoting Shakespeare (and Eric did in his review as well) so I couldn't resist doing likewise.
One scene that struck me as very true to life occurs between Isabel and Ian when they go up to the roof during her mother's party. Ian asks her where a door on the roof leads to and Isabel answers that she isn't sure. Ian reacts incredulously to the fact that she grew up in this building without ever wondering where this mysterious door leads. This tells me that Ian grew up poor while Isabel was rich. Only a rich kid would never have been bored enough to try and discover this door's secret because they would always have had other things to occupy their attention. A poor kid has to use their imagination in order to entertain themselves. It is seemingly unimportant details like this that give a script veracity.
Heights is well-made, terrifically acted and intelligently written. How did I miss this one when it first came out?
Photos © Copyright Sony Pictures Classics (2005)