Cinema Signal:

Lonely Planet New York City

by Beth Greenfield, Robert Reid


. "Heights"

A NY story in an ensemble framework in which homosexuality is threatening to take over Manhattan from the striving heteros whom we thought had a clear majority. There's Glenn Close's acclaimed actress Diana who knows Shakespeare like Nasa knows planets; her daughter Isabel (Elizabeth Banks), a striving photographer who has much to learn about her lawyer fianc‚ Jonathan (James Marsden); and, lingering on the periphery of everyone's destiny is Alec (Jesse Bradford), an actor living upstairs. A destiny-deciding day in the life, Manhattan style, with a surprise or two lurking in the wings.

Broadway theatre is a big factor, especially when Alec comes in for an audition and emotes on stage with the lead, no less than the production's star, Diana. An aging but powerful actor, she takes a shine to Alec in more than a maternal way. The lady's out for a conquest. But, even at the potential cost of throwing the part away, Alec couldn't be less interested.

But, the wily star checks his composite and sees that he lives upstairs in her daughter Isabel's and fiancee Jonathan's apartment building. Small island, this. So, when he leaves his green leather jacket behind, Diana hands it off to Isabel, who hands it off to Jonathan, who leaves it on Alec's doorknob.

In this largely improvisational piece, lives intersect, hopes raised, relationships blurred, assumptions torn, and emotions unravelled. Just the sort of thing a good team of New York actors can sink their teeth into, with the question of who has slept with whom not only hanging in the balance, but the crux of the whole multi-affair.

Glenn Close, who might well be the actress she portrays, comes dangerously close (no pun intended) to weighing it down with too much profundity, though I'll be quick to add that her anguish and disappointments balance that out. She is certainly a presence, which weighs a mite heavily as far as interest in her character goes. Such is the nature of an ensemble piece, I suppose and, perhaps, the benefit of negotiating from a position of the kind of strength she undeniably possesses.

Fortunately, the fox of the piece (Banks), whom I consider the film's selling point, has no problem keeping all eyes focused on her Isabel as she leads the corps of "interesting people" in her striving with career, marriage plans that always seem tentative, and the general perils of New York neuroses.

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  


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Elizabeth Banks as Isabel
Seeking solace in images


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