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Love lift us up where we belong: Extra weight keeps ‘Heights’ grounded

By |2018-01-16T09:54:33-05:00July 7th, 2005|Entertainment|

A lot can change in a day. You could get fired, you could find out your husband is having an affair, you could run into an old flame, or you could find out your boyfriend is, well, a slut.
So it is for the characters in director Chris Terrio’s “Heights,” a film that tracks a handful of people living, loving, and brooding in New York. Their lives and stories are interwoven in ways that recall films like Robert Altman’s “Short Cuts,” though the intersecting story lines in “Heights” aren’t always particularly surprising or interesting. One character saying to another, “Small world, eh?” often isn’t enough to make the viewer buy the relationships and coincidences “Heights” is trying to sell. The result often feels forced, or at least too convenient to produce any real tension.
Glenn Close stars as Diana, a famous actress playing Lady Macbeth on Broadway who fears her husband is straying and worries she is losing her daughter, Isabel (a functional, though tepid, Elizabeth Banks).
Isabel is about to get married to Jonathan (James Marsden). Jonathan is a man with a poorly kept secret that is uncovered when Peter (John Light) tracks him down on behalf of a famous photographer. The photographer, most famous for his portraits of male nudes, also has a reputation for bedding his models, a fact Peter, who is currently dating said photographer, discovers while doing research for the photographer’s memoirs. “I’m getting married in November,” Jonathan tells Peter. “Don’t leave any more messages at my apartment.”
One of Peter’s interview subjects, played by a somewhat stilted Rufus Wainwright, provides the narrative link between Peter and Diana.
Meanwhile, Alec (Jesse Bradford), a struggling actor, is about to audition for a part in a play Diana is directing. He’s nervous, as any young actor would be, but might there be something beyond stage fright driving his fear of the famous actress? When Alec leaves his jacket behind at the audition after acting cagey about whether or not he knows Diana’s daughter – after all, Diana points out, they live in the same apartment building – the plot thickens.
Which is part of the problem. An overly thick plot keeps “Heights” flying low to the ground.
That’s not to say that “Heights” fails. Fine performances save the film from itself, especially Glenn Close’s Diana and Jesse Bradford’s Alec.
But “Heights” asks us to invest emotionally in a bunch of well-off artsy folks who are self-absorbed, beautiful and neurotic without giving us much incentive to do so. None of the characters have much emotional depth, even those harboring unsurprising secrets.
During the film’s opening scene, Diana chastises her theatre students for lacking passion, bemoaning modern society’s lack of fiery people. “We are tap water,” she tells them.
“Heights,” too, is tap water. Room temperature refreshment slickly packaged as something high-brow and profound. It’s interesting, though, to watch the stories unfold, the same way it’s interesting to overhear the phone conversation of an overly-loud neighbor when there’s nothing on television. Voyeurism is entertaining, especially when it’s not nice.
“Heights” reminds us that we are often hurt most when our fears are confirmed about something we’d already suspected. Lives are made, after all, of secret after boring secret, many of which turn out to be denial of something obvious to everyone else all along.

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