Liberty Heights

"OK"

Liberty Heights Review


Liberty Heights is a coming of age story, a comedic drama about two brothers growing up Jewish in Baltimore in the mid-1950's. Against the tumultuous backdrop of McCarthyism and racial integration, Van (Adrien Brody) and Ben (Ben Foster) Kurzman, together with their parents, Nate (Joe Mantegna) and Ada (Bebe Neuwirth) face the daily trials of social, religious and racial discrimination.

Those familiar with Barry Levinson's other works, such as Diner and Tin Men, may find Liberty Heights disappointing. This picture strives to project a social consciousness but falls tragically short of the mark set in 1990 by Levinson's Academy Award-nominated Avalon. The powerful subject matter Liberty Heights attempts to address is never fully pursued, quickly falling away behind a glut of gimmicky coming-of-age scenes lacking both in sincerity and originality. At times the characters are so stereotypical, they border on offensive.

The real weakness of this picture is the dialogue, which is so lacking in subtlety as to leave nothing for the audience to wonder at. Even when the characters do find a finer point to talk about, they just can't resist beating it over the head with a mallet. Most of the time, though, they aren't given this chance. The younger brother's friend Sheldon (Evan Neumann), for instance, has few lines that aren't related to genitalia and fewer still that suggest there may be a human being behind those words.

Fortunately for audiences, the cast of Liberty Heights delivers a powerful performance that brings life and compassion to these otherwise stock characters. Joe Mantegna is surprisingly believable as well-meaning racketeer Nate Kurzman, imbuing the role with sensitivity and charm. Adrien Brody and Ben Foster are charismatic and compelling as the two brothers, and Bebe Neuwirth's performance lends a refreshing vulnerability to the family. But the real gem here is Rebekah Johnson, making her feature film debut as Sylvia. Together with James Pickens Jr., who plays Sylvia's father, she creates what may be the film's most memorable scene as Ben hides out in the bedroom closet.

There are a lot of funny scenes in Liberty Heights and at times the drama is successful, but overall this movie just doesn't live up to its aims. If you're looking for a cute coming of age story, you may enjoy Liberty Heights. But if what you want is a compelling social drama, you may do well to look elsewhere. I'm giving this one three stars.

It's not polite to point.



Liberty Heights

Facts and Figures

Run time: 127 mins

In Theaters: Wednesday 17th November 1999

Distributed by: Warner Bros. Pictures

Production compaines: Baltimore Spring Creek Pictures, Warner Bros.

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 87%
Fresh: 40 Rotten: 6

IMDB: 7.0 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Van Kurtzman, as Ben Kurtzman, as Little Melvin, as Ada Kurtzman, as Nate Kurtzman, as Yussel, as Charlie, Nate's Assistant, as Pete, Nate's Assistant, as Trey Tobelseted, as Dubbie the Blonde, James Pickens Jr. as Sylvia's Father, Frania Rubinek as Grandma Rose, as Scribbles, as Annie the Stripper, as Sylvia


Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Inside Out Movie Review

Inside Out Movie Review

Those bright sparks at Pixar have done it again, taking a fiercely original approach to...

Southpaw Movie Review

Southpaw Movie Review

Slick direction and meaty performances may be enough for some viewers, but this boxing drama's...

Eden Movie Review

Eden Movie Review

Loose and impressionistic, this beautifully shot film traces the career of a DJ who pioneered...

The Gallows Movie Review

The Gallows Movie Review

Without a single moment of originality, this found-footage horror movie really deserves to be the...

Advertisement
Self/Less Movie Review

Self/Less Movie Review

An intriguing premise keeps the audience gripped for about 20 minutes before the movie runs...

Ant-Man Movie Review

Ant-Man Movie Review

The increasingly stale Marvel formula gets a blast of fresh air in this rollocking adventure...

Love & Mercy Movie Review

Love & Mercy Movie Review

An unusually inventive approach brings this story to life, as the filmmakers get into the...

Ted 2 Movie Review

Ted 2 Movie Review

Fans of the surprise 2012 hit Ted will find plenty to love in this sequel,...

Advertisement