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Liberty Heights (1999)

A movie directed by Barry Levinson

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An unjustly neglected little masterpiece

  • Jul 2, 2000
Rating:
+5
Why LIBERTY HEIGHTS didn't enjoy a bigger box office presence and success is only evidence that the tender little movies get buried by the blockbuster explosion epics. This incredibly adroit recapturing of the 1950's, with all the incipient class and race issues just below the headline level, helps us understand our own insecurites no matter which one of the numerous minority groups we each claim. This is a simple, wonderful film that addresses major issues in such an honest manner that we cannot help but grow from the experience. A feel good, keep-on- the-active-shelf-of-the-DVD-library treasure!

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About the reviewer
Grady Harp ()
Ranked #97
Grady Harp is a champion of Representational Art in the roles of curator, lecturer, panelist, writer of art essays, poetry, critical reviews of literature, art and music, and as a gallerist. He has presented … more
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Wiki

When he's not crafting lavish Hollywood features likeRain Man,Bugsy, or the misbegottenSphere, Barry Levinson occasionally makes highly personal films (the so-called "Baltimore series" ofDiner,Tin Men,Avalon, andLiberty Heights). The latter, a 1999 release that disappeared all too soon from theaters, finds the aging Levinson working in a vein of pure memory: lyrical, mystical, forgiving. Ben Foster and Adrien Brody star as the middle-class Jewish sons of a shrewd burlesque operator (Joe Mantegna) running a petty numbers racket on the side. Set in the mid-'50s, the story finds the boys restless within the confines of their tight-knit community and unwilling to be restrained or rejected by anti-Semitic barriers or other racial and class prejudices.

Before the film is over, the young men's pursuit of the unattainable will include a troubled WASP princess (Carolyn Murphy) to a remarkable African American girl (Rebekah Johnson) kept on her family's short tether. Levinson provides generous glimpses of a nation undergoing re-invention, from white discovery of rock & roll to racial integration in classrooms. There's lots of broad satire (Jewish shock at being fed something called "luncheon meat" by a Gentile friend), some delicate comedy of manners (a touchingly chaste relationship between two key characters), suspense (a kidnapping), and shattering passages of pure yearning. Levinson is in top form with Liberty Heights, his instincts acute, his skills at the service of beauty, his ...

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Director: Barry Levinson
Screen Writer: Barry Levinson
DVD Release Date: June 20, 2000
Runtime: 127 minutes
Studio: Warner Home Video
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