There are eight million stories in the naked city, and Heights is five of them. Regarding voyeurism and practiced deception in New York City, the Merchant Ivory production Heights—adapted by Amy Fox from her play and directed by Chris Terrio—roots around in everyday discomforts and prods stubbornly self-protective characters into new phases of their lives.
Glenn Close plays Diana, an acting diva headlining a Broadway version of Macbeth. She berates a roomful of students to "Take a risk!" though her idea of a risk is an open marriage sinking under the weight of infidelity. Diana makes a move on a young actor named Alec (Jesse Bradford), who lives in the same building as Diana's daughter Isabel (Elizabeth Banks) and her fiance Jonathan (James Marsden), who's being hounded by Peter (John Light), a writer about to inadvertently expose Jonathan's well-kept secret.
Close's character hits the nail on the head when she says, "Six degrees of separation everywhere else—more like two in New York." Critics may tire of these carefully woven ensemble pieces, with their telegraphed secrets, overstated profundity, and haphazard narrative payoffs (some spark and some fizzle), but Heights is sturdy enough: diverting and well-acted, especially by Close, who rattles and hums like no other. As far as the profundity, Terrio taps into Shakespeare's notion that "All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players," or, as he rewrites it in the parlance of a woman on the subway, "You can't get your own fucking life?"
Sony's intriguing special edition of Heights includes three brief featurettes: "On Location in NYC" (4:54), "Photo Gallery: Photos from the Film" (2:03), and "The Scottish Play: Designing for Broadway on Film" (3:21). The location and Broadway featurettes cover ground that's mostly addressed in the commentary track by director Chris Terrio and star Glenn Close; still, the miniature docs are able to organize the screen-specific visual aids of locations and the phony production design and advertising campaign for the play within the film. (The disc's previews are for Saving Face and The Beautiful Country.)
These interesting snippets whet the appetite for the feature-length, screen-specific commentary, which addresses the theatrical origin of the film (the play "Heights"), the processes of casting and developing scenes, and finding just-right music, locations, and photographic choices to complement the story. Terrio also discusses directing a star of Close's stature and rattles off influences and homages seen in the film—mostly Woody Allen and cinematographer Gordon Willis. Fashion plates, take note: Close also dishes about the wig she wears in the film.
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