A deft ensemble drama with a hard emotional veracity ref=lectingthe complexity that sexual histories impose on modern relationships, "=Heights"takes place over 24 hours that prove unexpectedly pivotal to each of itsof cross-pollinating Manhattan lives.
At the center of one of the film's concentric social circ=lesis Isabel (Elizabeth Banks, "Seabiscuit,&=quot;"CatchMe If You Can"), an aspiring photographe=r,stuck in a rut of wedding assignments. Her engagement to handsome younglawyer Jonathan (James Marsden) is tempered by subtle undercurrents ofuncertainty that may be tested by a pining ex-boyfriend's offer of a dreamassignment for a prestigious news magazine.
Isabel's mother Diana (Glenn Close) -- a blunt, outwardlyself-confident, highly respected stage actress and theater professor atJulliard -- is the hub of another, upper-crust conclave. Her quite liberalopen marriage has taken its toll on her psychological buoyancy (and herdaughter's views of fidelity), especially in the wake of her husband'scurrent philandering with her own understudy from a Broadway productionof "Macbeth."
Around these two women revolve several men whose secretpasts and present relationships collide in one evening's revelations, upset=tingthe tenuous balance of their hearts. Among them are a journalist (JohnLight) writing a Vanity Fair profile of his famous-photographer boyfriendand discovering the man has a parasitical sexual history that includesother major characters, and a struggling young gay actor (Jesse Bradford)who makes a large impression in an audition for Diana, and who happensto live downstairs from Isabel.
Adapted by playwright Amy Fox from her own stage producti=on,and beefed up with "additional screenplay material" by directorChris Terrio, the film has a v=E9rit=E9 style and handsomely cold blue-graycinematography that helps give its dampened, sometimes stylized emotionsvisceral substance.
Of course, the effectiveness of those feelings has evenmore to do with the cast, which is uniformly genuine -- even those playingagainst their more Hollywoody type like Marsden (best known for the ratherhollow Cyclops in the "X-Men"=a>movies) and Bradford (best known for teen fair like ="Swimfan"and "BringIt On"). But it's Banks and Close who ca=rrythe picture with nuanced performances that tap mother-daughter animosityand -- in different ways -- each character's anxiety that stems from subcon=sciouslyknowing their lives may not really be going as planned.
Despite its strengths, "Heights" is not a red-m=eatmovie that will stick with you long, and it has its nagging imperfections-- Banks lacks credibility as a photographer because she doesn't know howto hold a camera, and the rarefied lifestyles of many characters makesit harder to identify with them. But Terrio's ability to get to the gutof how sex can fuel love or obliterate it makes the film compelling towatch