Projections - Movie Reviews

Liberty Heights Liberty Heights

Barry Levinson does what he does best in harking back to his younger days in Baltimore again in winsome fashion in Liberty Heights.  His latest smaller-budget release is a richly diverse story that has much to say about family values.  And it takes a poignantly detailed view into race, religion, and class issues.

Similar to his other films, including the acclaimed Avalon and Diner, the writer/director zeros in on a middle class Jewish family and branches out intriguingly in a holistic cultural approach.

The cogent narrative from Levinson connects many ideas and people as a period of change is coming to fruition.  It will affect two brothers, Van and Ben Kurtzman (Adrien Brody and Ben Foster).  The two head out beyond the ethnic tenets exemplified by their parents (Bebe Neuwrith and Joe Mantegna) and get involved with upper class types.  Both are smitten with the luminous Dubbie (Carolyn Murphy) who happens to be with the snotty Tery (Justin Chambers).

Adaptation to varying elements of society is what Levinson brings to the table.  He displays this notion with coherence that represents his finest screenplay to date.  His work hits platitudes that Neil Simon would admire, as there is a strong credibility to being in a non-Jewish home, even with an affluent black girl, and immersed in the politics of civil rights that would emerge in the 60's.  This is done quite well considering the brief times at the outset between Ben, Van, and their dad who is running a fading, risqué enterprise, which recalls the plight of Aidan Quinn and Kevin Pollak in Avalon.

Though the finale of Liberty may not live up to the heights of what has led up to it, the shots of 1954 Baltimore with the intricate set designs, compliment a varying tempered score.  It essentially reflects the star turns enhanced by an engaging Brody (Summer of Sam) and the surprising newcomer in Foster who jolts his mother and brings wit to the viewer with a confrontational Halloween outfit.

Coming home for a fourth time sees Levinson near the pinnacle of his craft, as his small, arty, yet vastly shaded collection of memories pursues a growing human conflict with constant foresight.

Liberty Heights

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