5 Flights Up
2015, PG-13, 92 min. Directed by Richard Loncraine. Starring Morgan Freeman, Diane Keaton, Cynthia Nixon, Carrie Preston, Claire van der Boom, Korey Jackson, Sterling Jerins, Josh Pais.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., May 22, 2015
There’s a comfortable rapport between Morgan Freeman and Diane Keaton, who play Alex and Ruth, a long-married couple, in this modest slice-of-life movie. Their back-and-forth is pleasant to observe, but one wishes that director Richard Loncraine and screenwriter Charlie Peters had required more of them. The story is a mere slip of a thing, and there’s no character development, although Alex and Ruth fare better than the film’s other cast members, who’ve all been flattened into caricatures.
Alex is a painter and Ruth is a retired schoolteacher, and they’ve lived in the same Brooklyn apartment for the last 40 years, long before the borough became a haven for the hip. It’s a great apartment with lots of light and expansive views, Alex has his studio in one of the bedrooms, and they’ve had a good, happy life within its walls. The only problem is that the building is elevatorless, and the five-floor walk-up poses more of a problem for the mid-sixtysomethings than they care to admit. Their 10-year-old dog Dorothy knows better: The couple rushes Dorothy to the vet with a slipped disc requiring a $10,000 spinal surgery (and you have to wonder how a working artist and retired schoolteacher have that kind of disposable income). Ruth’s niece Lily (Nixon) is a pushy real-estate broker who wants to sell their apartment and find them a new one. Over the course of one, long weekend, Alex and Ruth weigh their options.
There are a few open houses (which are visited by the same stereotypical bunch of apartment-seekers), continual phone calls from the vet to report on Dorothy’s touch-and-go situation (whose nonambulatory situation post-surgery is a thinly veiled portent of her owners’ fate), and unnecessary flashbacks to Alex and Ruth as a young, married couple during their early years in the building (van der Boom and Jackson). A concurrent plot about a truck driver who’s run away from an accident on the Brooklyn Bridge that snarls traffic and causes the media to brand him as a terrorist, keeps everyone glued to the TV coverage but adds absolutely nothing to the drama.
Terribly slight but not unpleasant, 5 Flights Up is hardly worth the climb. Apparently looked over by the other local movie venues, the film makes an unusual Austin debut at the Southwest Lake Creek 7, which does not generally screen first-run fare. Kudos to the film booker who noticed that a film starring two Oscar winners had no local berth. Perhaps the theatre will stay on the lookout for more such orphans.