New York native Chris Terrio's debut feature film, HEIGHTS, is a whirlwind of outstanding acting, excellent locations, and a unique plot filled with twists and turns. Based on Amy Fox's play, the film is set in the theater community of New York … see full wiki
The best single word I can come up with to describe Heights is slippery. I have puzzled with this film for about two days now and I keep coming back to that word—it isn’t at all bad; in fact, it is what makes the movie worth watching.
A plot summary will be difficult to go into without giving too much away, so I will follow the line of the film (defined, sort of like Hanna and Her Sisters around relationships). Famed actress Diana Lee (Glenn Close) and her daughter Isabel (Elizabeth Banks) have a contentious relationship. This contention seems to be framed somewhat around Isabel’s relationship with her fiancé, Jonathan (James Mardsen). Diana has something for an aspiring actor, Alec (Jesse Bradford). Alec lives in the same building as Isabel. Then there is a wild card, the freelance writer, Peter (John Light) hired by Vanity Fair to do a piece on a famous photographer who is not only gay but sleeps with all, or at least the vast majority of his models.
The setting is NYC despite the small number of people and the time span is 1 day. If I say more about the plot, then I make it a bit less slippery and that is one of the major reasons to watch.
By structure Heights is an Aristotelian tragedy. The rules are pretty simple—the setting should be in only one place, the events continuous and over a short period of time, and there needs be a fall from grace from someone overly proud, and a catharsis.
Until I wrote that I didn’t realize the possible meaning of the title. Nothing in the film would indicate otherwise. And there is more to back this up. Diana Lee is on Broadway doing a version of, well, let’s stick to theater tradition and call it The Scottish Play. In its own way, this play is nearly the same sort of tragedy.
Heights is really a tragedy without the massive amounts of blood that tend to come along with such (the blood is replaced here by tears). The more I think about it, the more I realize that what would ordinarily be pathos or even pathetic, but in the hands of Chris Terrio, it skirts that possibility but never falls into it directly.
The film was easy to watch. Each actor did a stellar job—Diana upstaging as often as possible (which fits the character) but she is typically pulled back by, if nothing else, her mortality. Ok, she has Oscars, but she isn’t on stage or on that end of the camera all the time. She is reminded of this in many ways. But what really makes them stellar is that I get the sense (though knowing otherwise) that they have become their character and are never “off” until their part of the film is over.
This is one of the rare occasions where I get to say that writing the review changed the way I felt about something. I like it more and more with each word I put into pixel. Now I want to go watch it again.
There is every reason to recommend this film highly.
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