Liberty Heights Reviews

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Super Reviewer
October 15, 2006
Ada Kurtzman: No, there the other kind.

Set in 1954 Baltimore, this is a coming of age story involving two Jewish boys, one in high school, one in college, both going after girls and dealing with the changing in times and issues of race, class, and religion.

Ben Foster is the younger of the two, he plays Ben Kurtzman. His story revolves around his attraction to a fellow black girl in his class. The two hit it off, but there are various obstacles in the way of them hanging out together.

Adrien Brody is the older brother, Van. He is basically the simplest character in the movie. All he wants to do is find a girl he met one night at a party, although this does provide the setup for a number of entertaining scenes involving he and his friends hanging in the "non-jewish" neighborhoods.

You also have their parents played by Bebe Neuwirth and Joe Mantegna. This plot is the least entertaining, mainly cause it drags in another character. Mantegna runs a burlesque house and an illegal numbers operation. He gets into some trouble when a lottery game they have going needs to pay off much more than they can. This part leads to a character played by Orlando Jones that really doesn't help the movie much, besides give way to some story developments.

Besides this character, the movie works very well. Foster is very good, as he is basically the main protagonist. Mantegna is just a cool guy in general, so he works. The chemistry between the friends is all very good.

Director Barry Levinson, who has made a number of comedy-dramas, knows how to keep things pretty balanced and entertaining. He also gets a number of 50s elements present and has some hints of satire.

The issues involving jews, blacks, and the rich white crowd are handled well enough, but this isn't a film about providing deep answers to these things or anything like that. It just serves as a setting.

The film takes that setting, and uses it to make a fine coming of age story.

Ben Kurtzman: In the event of a bombing, do you think this book will save my life?...First it was the Atom bomb, how its the hydrogen hydrogen is getting through this book.
Super Reviewer
November 10, 2007
Life for Jews and blacks in 1950's America. That sentence pretty much sums up the film. There's no plot, instead it's a character-lead film but sadly the characters are so cliched that the film ends up being supremely mediocre. Brody is good but has nothing to do, it's Foster who has the most interesting storyline - it's just a shame it's Romeo + Juliet all over again. This film really could have done with some darkness or a threat (there's a kidnapping but the tone is way too light) to give it some grit and substance.
Super Reviewer
May 31, 2007
A good movie!
February 14, 2010
Yeah...I found it kind of unmemorable and a time-waster in all honesty. A lot of the acting was horrible, sans Adrien Brody, Ben Foster sometimes, and Fat Tony. It was way too long, and it's story was kind of blah to me, especially Adrien Brody's part of it. Also, the conversations between Ben Foster and his "negro" (I HATE that term) friend were so painstakingly awful and (I'd think) unrealistic that it just got too much to bear. Also, their ending would have been sweet if their parents had actually learned something. The black people were just as racist as the white people, if their parents were any indication. Like, seriously: "Mr. [insert Ben's last name here], you need to leave my house now because you are white and my daughter is black and I hate white people because they hate black people." That was practically what one scene of the movie was saying. It all just felt completely pointless in the end...and I mean, some parts were funny, sure, the parts with Adrien Brody and his Jewish friends, but was this supposed to really be a comedy like my cable said? And why was it so important that they were Jewish? Was it just because there were a lot of Jews living in Baltimore at the time? I didn't think their Jewishness needed to be so showcased, because it ended up not being that important. I mean, it was an element of the story, that's true...but I feel like the tensions between the Jews and the non-Jews added very little to the story. The stronger story as I said before was Ben's. Too bad his interracial friendship never really went too far beyond "Oh, so this is what black people like! You see, I'm not a black person. How interesting. You black people are so different." I find it strange that this movie was lauded so much when I found it to be bland, rather uninteresting, and pretty silent when it comes to espousing a message. What am I missing? EDIT: Oh, and this movie was especially fun to watch on WB at 1 PM. the scene with Orlando Jones and Ben and "Sylvia" in the car was hilarious. "Touch her cookie" was how they edited it. He kept saying "Touch it. Touch her cookie." It killed me.
February 22, 2008
Entertaining enough and easy to watch. Unfortunately, its just satisfactory and nothing amazing. Wheres the emotion in the acting? Big things are happening that warrant a wide range of extreme emotions, yet the actors don't show it. Fans of Adrien Brody thus don't need to see this, since he pretty much just talks.
December 1, 2007
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. Each one of them having their own struggle and challenges to face. What struck me as the most amazing part of the story was the easiness of it, how it flowed and gently tackled serious issues in the community of that time. This movie is wonderful: the soundtrack, photography and costumes are marvelous. The story, about segregation of Jews and blacks and love between races, is very beautiful. The viewer will not be disappointed with this entertainment.
½ September 18, 2006
High School at the end of segregation, doesn't make the issue of racism a big thing just shows that it's still there
June 4, 2006
ZOMG this movie KICKS EVERYBODY'S ASS. It's got Adrien Brooooddyyyyyyy and Ben Foster and they're all "hey guys we're jewish" and it's pretty freakin' adorable ;_;
July 14, 2014
Perhaps Levinson's last hurrah, 'Heights' is sweet, understated and even cheeky. Of course, aside from a great cast of charismatic youngsters, the film pulls off a fine balancing act of teen romance with statements about social and racial affairs of the time.
½ March 5, 2014
Great coming of age story.
½ January 22, 2011
Another excellent Baltimore flick from the director of "Diner", "Avalon" and "Rain Man".
September 22, 2010
Some nice moments, but weak overall. Not one of Levinson's best.
Super Reviewer
August 22, 2011
This is flawless filmmaking. Great storytelling and superb acting. 'Liberty Heights' is the movie 'Crash' wanted to be. The movie deals with race relations with intelligence. However, you know when the cinematographer is one Christopher Doyle the highlight of the movie is going to be the photography. It's impossible to look away when a true artist is saturating us with vibrant colours and wonderful compositions. It's beautiful, you can empty a thesaurus praising Doyle.
½ August 26, 2010
It has a nice script, as well as some good performances from the cast, but Liberty Heights doesn't succeed fully with being something stronger than it should have been.
½ April 28, 2010
Liberty Heights is a brilliant coming of age story, set in an era that we most probably (well, I hope) won't ever go through again, with racial segregation prominant. It tells the story of 2 brothers from a Jewish family, who find they are falling for two girls from completely different walks of life. One is an African American, the other a popular girl from a different school who has some of her own demons to face.

Written and directed by Barry Levinson, he creates a charming and brilliantly written story. Backed by brilliant performances by Adrian Brody and Ben Foster makes for a really humour and entertaiing film. Adrian Brody is without a doubt one of my favourite actors and adds a certain charm I haven't seen him do before. Ben Foster plays the more humour role, especially in the scene where he dresses as Hitler for Halloween, I was howling.

Other strong performances bv Joe Mantegna, Rebekah Johnson and Bebe Neuwirth as their father, Nate, African American girl, Sylvia and their mother, Ada respectively. All adding sufficient depth to all of the characters.

While the film is quite a funny one, I find there its there trying to mask other the serious aspect of the film. Which is without a doubt racial segregation and themes of racism. While the film doesn't provoke any sort of major racist themes, it deals mainly with familys perceptions rather than director discrimination which is a very subtle and touching way to deal with a strong subject which even 50 years later, is still extremely prominent.

Liberty Heights is a very enjoyable film, brilliantly written and very well acted. I'd recommend this to anyone who wants a film with some depth and humour.
½ December 14, 2009
See you in Baldimore, hon.
November 19, 2009
I'm Jewish, not exceptionally so, but enough that this movie has resonance for me. It's a Jewish movie, with Jewish protagonists growing up in the Jewish section of Baltimore. That being said, I'm sure that it has resonance for non-Jews as well; I watched it with a Muslim who enjoyed the movie.

Specifically, it deals with brothers Ben (Foster) and Van (Brody), as they grow up in 1950s Baltimore. Ben is a senior in high school (at a time when there was much speculation about things such as sex and drugs, and much less participation) while Van attends the University of Baltimore (and appears to live at home). Both brothers encounter forbidden objects of romance: Ben favors a Negro girl at his school named Sylvia (Rebekah Johnson) while Van becomes obsessed by Dubbie (Carolyn Murphy), a rich WASP who shouldn't be associating with Jews. Some of the most interesting scenes in the movie are about the different ways the brothers express their love, and how these storylines spin out.

However, the funniest and most purely entertaining sequences occur around the events following the boys' father (Joe Mantegna), a burlesque theater owner who runs a numbers business on the sly. Mantegna's performance is commanding as a Jewish "gangster" who is simply running a business; but business isn't good. Luckily, family matters to him more than profits.

The Jewish family rings true in their reactions and mannerisms, from the overbearing mother to the modern-world-uncomprehending grandmother to the sardonic Van.

Overall, there is a genuine feeling of nostalgia in the picture. The director is from Baltimore, and the implication is that the movie is semi-autobiographical; it feels like it.

Performances: Ben Foster and Adrian Brody put in some very good performances, as well as the covey of actors who portrayed their best friends, enemies, and other assorted youths. Orlando Jones and Anthony Anderson, on the other hand, seemed a bit hackneyed and overdone...more like caricatures of black thugs in the 1950s than fully realized characters. In fact, the whole sequence between Jones and Foster (I won't spoil it) seemed a bit too fantastical for a movie otherwise grounded in the realities, both fun and brutal of life in Jewish Baltimore. Mantegna's performance is undoubtedly the best of the bunch, especially in the final, bittersweet sequence of the film.

A very good movie, that just misses greatness for the subplot between Jones and Foster.
½ February 9, 2005
We Don't - Great Acting making for interesting characters.

Liberty - Saw this a while ago, but still remember a little of it, so that is a good sign.

Bourne - Half-ass action movie, that is only a little interesting.

Clearing - I was stoned, but I rated it a 8 on IMDB, so let's hope I was right.

Riddick - Horrible! It only gets this high of a grade because of the production value, and I like these type of movies Sci-Fi movies, at least usually.
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