LIBERTY HEIGHTS (LH) is a fine addition to writer/director Barry Levinson's series of nostalgic autobiographical Baltimore-set films. This episodic but heartfelt comedy-drama, set in the mid-1950s, stars Adrien Brody and Ben Foster as brothers Van and Ben Kurtzman, who come of age while grappling with anti-Semitism, their loving dad's (Joe Mantegna) shady business dealings (he runs both a burlesque house and a low-profile numbers racket. My late dad, a bookie, would've loved this guy! :-), racism (Ben and his pretty black classmate Sylvia, appealingly played by Rebekah Johnson, start seeing each other on the sly), and classism (Van falls hard for blonde WASP dream girl Dubbie, who turns out to be a nightmare -- a tragic figure, in fact -- but is capably played by supermodel Carolyn Murphy in her first and, to date, only film role that I know of). While LH isn't quite as sharp and knowing as Levinson's modern classic DINER (with which LH would make an interesting double feature; the DVD includes the DINER trailer, by the way), it's rendered with great affection and attention to detail about the characters, their world, and the changing times they're living in. For me, the wittier moments really made the film -- Ben's anarchic streak livens things up, to say the least! Best Ben moments: 1) his scandalizing his family by dressing as Hitler on Halloween; 2) the act of defiance he and his friends eventually pull at the "NO JEWS..." pool; and 3) the tender yet chaste kiss he gives Sylvia at graduation, freaking out both sets of parents. LH is worth a rental, at the very least!
Drama / Music
Drama / Music
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.
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