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Thread: Heights - 6/17

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    Leia-Jakita-Arendt OnMyLunchBreak's Avatar
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    Heights - 6/17

    Has anyone else seen this? I saw it this afternoon and was really moved by it.

    The synopsis from rottentomatos:

    New York native Chris Terrio's debut feature film, HEIGHTS, is a whirlwind of outstanding acting, excellent locations, and a unique plot filled with twists and turns. Based on Amy Fox's play, the film is set in the theater community of New York City, as diva Diana Lee (Glenn Close) prepares to portray Lady Macbeth on Broadway. She wants to cast Alec (Jesse Bradford) in a play she's directing, but a secret is preventing him from jumping at the chance to graduate from off-off-Broadway fringe roles. Meanwhile, Lee's daughter, Isabel (Elizabeth Banks), is getting ready to marry Jonathan (James Marsden), a young executive with a secret of his own. And Lee is unhappy that her husband (Phil Tabor) has chosen her understudy (Susan Malick) for his latest dalliance. All comes to a head as Peter (John Light), who has been hired by Vanity Fair to look into a famous photographer's sexual past, uncovers some surprising revelations. This gem of a film, taking place over just one day, features fine support by an eclectic group of stars, including Denis O'Hare, George Segal, Eric Bogosian, Isabella Rossellini, Rufus Wainwright, and Michael Murphy. But it is the radiant Close and the mesmerizing Banks who are the heart of Terrio's poignant, powerful drama.

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    Leia-Jakita-Arendt OnMyLunchBreak's Avatar
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    My Take...

    Once, in a Communications course, the class was discussing how social norms get handed down and the professor wanted us to break into small groups and discuss the norms that our parents had handed down to us - the good and the bad. I could think of many good things but one really bad norm crept in. My Mom, being the honest, genuine and law abiding citizen that she is had somehow instilled in my sister and I with a clear sense that following the rules is ALWAYS the right thing to do. If there is a law - don't break it. If there is a custom - try to follow it. And somehow, as I discussed this with my classmates, I came to associate this strict adherence to rules as limiting my access to physical spaces. If there were locked doors, I never even tried to go through them...I never tried to see what was on the other side. This made me sad, and I thought about it for years afterward.

    Heights is a movie filled with just these types of literal and metaphorical locked doors. Some of the characters walk through them, unabashed and without thinking. They are born rule breakers, a locked door only means a minor inconvenience. Some of the characters are like me, for whatever reason, they were taught not to try to go through locked doors. And some, are taught the value of rule breaking and find revelation once they take the step and break down a door that is closed to them.

    Before this gets any more abstract, let's situate ourselves in the story. Well, that too is hard. It is an ensemble piece, with many layers and many relationships, all intertwined. The central quartet is led by Diana Lee, played by a very different but radiant Glenn Close. Diana is a Broadway and film actress, beginning the slow decline of an aging star and, on this particular day, truly feeling its effects. Her daugher, Isabel, is a photographer and seemingly hard boiled, born and raised New Yorker. isabel is about to marry Jonathan. Diana describes Jonathan at one point as the 'square jawed, serious looking one.' He is excited to marry Isabel and begin taking care of her which also includes moving her out to the suburbs - a notion Isabel has not yet consented to. Finally, you have Alec. A "fringe festival" actor who, on this day, is trying out for an off-Broadway production. However, he is disconcerted once he finds out this play is to be directed by none other than Diana Lee...indeed, she hits on him early in the audition...but why, we wonder, is this truly the cause for his seemingly urgent concern?

    As the story unfolds, we begin the always interesting but thankfully in this film, not tedious, road of revelation. Jonathan and Isabel have many problems - one in the form of her ex and a times reporter named Mark. Diana is not only feeling her age, but perhaps being supplanted in her 'open' marriage by her understudy. Isabel and Dina do not have a great relationship either...with a classic dynamic of the daughter being more the mother than Diana herself. Alec remains a mysterious figure. He is a waiter for a catering company, he forgets his jacket, and yet, the director keeps coming back to him....

    In the midst of this journey, Peter shows up. Peter is the current lover and memoir creator for one Benjamin Stone, a world famous photographer. Arriving at Vanity Fair, who is doing an article on him, Peter is shocked to learn that Benjamin has asked Vanity to do the article on all of his ex lovers. And it is quite a list. Peter, pushed along by a wise and witty Isabella Rosselini, begins the assignment.

    This is when the feathers really start to fly, and anymore will spoil the well crafted ending.

    The movie is about relationships. And yet, I could not shake the feeling that there was something interesting about the motif chosen...that of Macbeth. The opening scene is of Diana instrucing a graduate class at Juliard on the finer points of lady Macbeth's true evil. Diana herself is rehearsing for a staging of Shakespeare's great work. And yet, in this film, it is not the women who have committed the dastardly deeds, bu the men. The women are, for all intents and purposes, innocent while the men are slowly sinking to the bottom of the moral cesspool. What can this motif mean, I have yet to fully comprehend. My feminazi side says that it is a chauvenist ploy at trying to hint at the idea that all men are driven to evil by women.

    So, back to the doors. At Diana's party late in the film, Isabela meets a young artist from Wales. As they talk and smoke on the roof, he queries what is behind a door close to them. Isabel shrugs, she does not know, it is locked, it always has been locked, during her whole childhood. Incredulous, the welsh chap busts down the door and they discover a lovely space where the old water tank sat. This exchange leads Isabel to break down her own doors later...and while it may be heavy handed, there is something that all humans respond to, I believe, in taking that step. The movie sets us up, but keeps us hanging until the final scene.

    The film is not so much about love, or sex or even attraction as some other celluloid attempts as of late which promise to document the "modern relationship." No, this movie is about dynamics. Not only with your loved one, but with everyone within your sphere of influence....how they come together and go apart. The things we remember, the times we let go, the people we love but cannot have.

    And, in the end, even though it is about the modern relationship, it is a hopeless romance in its own way. The director is clearly in love with his city and with these characters.

    It certainly inspired me to go find some locked doors and see just what is on the other side.

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