Directed by Chris Terrio. Starring Glenn Close, Elizabeth Banks, James Marsden, Jesse Bradford, John Light, Matt Davis, Eric Bogosian, Andrew Howard, George Segal, Rufus Wainwright. (2005, R, 93 min.)
REVIEWED By Kimberley Jones, Fri., July 15, 2005
Heights opens with Diana (Close), a venerable stage and screen actress, teaching a master class on Macbeth. Grande-dame style, she bellows to her students about the passionlessness of modern living; her curtain call is to urge them, "For Christ’s sake, take a risk sometime this weekend." It’s a curious jumping-off point for this intersecting story that follows a half-dozen New Yorkers over the course of one long day and night. There’s Diana, warily celebrating her birthday while her marriage is on the rocks; Diana’s daughter, Isabel (Banks), a photographer; Isabel’s fiancé, Jonathan (Marsden), with a secret past; Alec (Bradford), a struggling actor who lives in the same building as Isabel and Jonathan; and Peter (Light), a British writer coming to grips with his photographer lover’s penchant for sleeping with his models. Heights, directed by Chris Terrio from a script by Amy Fox (based on her stageplay), bears more than a passing resemblance to another new release, Don Roos’ Happy Endings (which opens in Austin within the month). Both are ensemble stories, anchored by an emotionally unavailable "woman-on-the-verge" (Banks here, Lisa Kudrow in Happy Endings); both films employ intertitles and split screens; they even share a co-star, former child actor Bradford (in wildly different roles). But where the path diverges is at that pesky passion issue again: Happy Endings has it, Heights does not. There’s nothing glaringly wrong with the film. The performances are all fine (Marsden is especially good). The film is ably shot, in chilly blues and grays, by arthouse mainstay Jim Denault (Maria Full of Grace). The plot is interesting enough, and the twisty ways in which these characters' lives intertwine can be intellectually engaging and genuinely surprising. But by film’s end, Diana’s opening admonishment proves to be a self-fulfilling prophecy: Terrio’s technically proficient film is mature, modern, and minus the all-important passion and risk.