Heights

June, 2005, Drama

Directed by:Chris Terrio

Starring:Glenn Close, Elizabeth Banks, James Marsden, and Jesse Bradford

Alas, good intentions do not a decent movie make. This filmed adaptation of the Broadway play by Amy Fox, which follows the intertwined lives of an established actress, her husband and soon to be married daughter gets such heavy-handed treatment by first-time director Chris Terrio it falls victim to its own pretensions. Despite the brief but laudable work of Glenn Close, Heights serves up showbiz baloney by the carload, wasting the talents of its cast on a storyline right out television’s afternoon soaps. 

Isabel, (Elizabeth Banks) a young photographer trying to gain recognition for her work, is about to marry Jonathan, (James Marsden) a Jewish lawyer who’s diffident manner has raised the suspicions of Isabel’s mother Diane (Glenn Close). Diane is a well-known and highly regarded actress about to open in a production of Hamlet with her philandering husband, who’s currently dallying with Diane’s understudy. To compensate, Diane leers at every young male she sees as though selecting prime rib for a dinner party, which brings her in contact with Alec, an aspiring actor who just happens to be Jonathan’s secret lover. Throw in a Welsh painter who hits on Isabel and a rabbi (George Segal) who tries to coax Jonathan into sharing his sexual proclivities with his finance and you have some idea of the roundelay of self-absorption that Ms. Fox, (with additional written material provided by the director) has concocted.

To her credit, Ms. Close makes the most of her rather tangential part in all this; ever since Fatal Attraction, she’s demonstrated an appealing mixture of ferocity and vulnerability. Here, as a wronged wife and protective mother, she generates a mesmerizing presence when she’s onscreen. But even the best actors can’t survive banal dialogue; this screenplay is so loaded with clichés even a thespian of Ms. Close’s ability can’t escape unharmed.

In a little over an hour and a half, the director manages to make his characters so boring the audience doesn’t care whether Jonathan marries Isabel or breaks Alec’s heart and since Ms. Banks has spent the entire movie pouting over her unfilled career aspirations, no one cares what happens to her either. Only Glenn Close matters here -- and her Diana just doesn’t matter enough. 

The Verdict? A talky, pseudo-artsy, melodramatic waste of time.   

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