The lives of Diana (Glenn Close), Isabel (Elizabeth Banks), Jonathan, (James Marsden) and Alec (Jesse Bradford) intersect in this “past catching up the the present” tale of love, hope, desire and commitment. This film revels in the fact that almost the whole time it is staying two to three steps ahead of the viewer. Diana is a drama teacher in an open marriage with a man who seems to have found another soulmate. Isabel, Diana’s daughter, is a struggling photographer living with Jonathan, a lawyer who can easily support them both. However, Jonathan has a past and without giving too much away, this past seems to be catching up with him when an art exhibit comes to town. One spends the Alec portions of this movie trying to figure out how this character fits in, and while it becomes apparent pretty quickly, I found that I was never sure until I was sure.
Heights is one of those films in which we look at the lives of people who seemingly have everything, yet over the course of the film we realize they have nothing. While there are various moments of pretense, and sometimes I thought this movie was trying to be a bit too cool or arty for it’s own good, at the end of the day, I feel Heights leaves a lasting impression. It delicately weaves together all of the intersecting stories, and while I spent more time trying to figure out the film than I did absorbing the characters, I can’t hold anything against Heights for getting away from me.
Glenn Close and Director Commentary
From talking about Close’s wigs, to the actual production, to the inner emotions of the characters, I felt this commentary could have let it’s hair down a bit more. It just seems a bit too serious all the way through. Honestly, maybe Glenn Close and Director Chris Terrio are just those kinds of people, and having fun throughout this piece would have been highly out of character. I guess I just find that the commentary is the one place where the creators of the movie can relax, but I never got that impression here.
Locations Diary; Designing Broadway for Film and Photo Gallery
I’d like to applaud Director Chris Terrio for being so “hands on” with his special features. Both the “Locations Diary” and the “Designing Broadway for Film” piece, really have his touch on them as he talks us through his process of creation. The “Locations Dairy” is a bit more technical, as it deals with things like the logistics of getting a two shot of Isabel and Diana in the middle of a New York street. “Designing Broadway for Film” really looks at taking something that was on the stage, and making it visual while at the same time keeping it within it’s staged milieu. The “Photo Gallery” is look at the photographs we see throughout the film. While I don’t usually go for these things (especially when they are just pictures taken from the movie or on the set), this is an actual look at the pictures we see in Heights, therefore it resonated a bit more.
1.78:1 - Widescreen. Much of this movie seems handheld. As a result it’s not like you are watching one of those independent movies that frames everything perfectly, and makes every moment an Ansel Adams composition. This film is showing so many different lives and emotions that to not have kept the camera moving would have really killed it. There is an energy in the camera work and in the actors performances, where so much of it seems truly real, that I found myself wrapped up in this movie the moment it started. I also like how it captured New York as it was and didn’t seem to go out of it’s way to add any artifice.
Dolby Digital. Mastered in High Definition. Language: English (5.1 Dolby Digital). Subtitled in French, Portuguese and Spanish. From the little bit of this “New York” life (depicted in the film) that I have been personally exposed to, I feel that the music they used here really captured it. As I am not a fan of that music, I am sort of torn in my review. Other than in key scenes, I didn’t really notice the soundtrack. While sometimes I think ambient music and sounds can steer the audience in too much of a direction, I like music when it is used in a such a way that it can be left to the viewers imagination. When it simply underscores what the characters are already doing it’s meaningless. In Heights, the soundtrack seems to offer up options to these characters, but does and doesn’t coincide with what they will eventually do. Used how it often is in this film, the audio really works for me.
I think the use of different pictures on this cover, meant to symbolize all the main characters fractured lives, does this film a disservice. It made Heights seem like every other movie about young people in New York, and I think this film is a cut above. In fact, just a shot of Glenn Close would have been fine but I guess the marketing department had other ideas. Even a shot of just the city would have sufficed. The back features 4 more pictures of our main characters, a description of the movie, some critics quotes, a “Special Features” listing, cast list and some technical specs. While I think this packaging leaves a bit to be desired, don’t let that deter you from screening this movie.
Glenn Close and Elizabeth Banks were the true standouts in my opinion. I just found their relationship and their overall performances to be highly believable. I was especially impressed with Banks who I only really remember from The 40 Year Old Virgin. She captured what I imagine a girl in her position would really be going through. Wanting security, yet at the same time wanting to be able to have her own life. When she confronts her husband at the end about their relationship, she illuminates something you always knew was brewing but finally has boiled over. Not that I have ever seen Glenn Close be bad in a film, but she seems truly inspired in this role of the aging acting teacher who is enjoying her wisdom, yet wishes she could turn back the clock a bit.
People who love big budget, action movies probably will not like Heights that much. For those looking for a film that may challenge their preconceptions a little bit, this movie is definitely one for them to look up.
Heights was released January 1, 2005.