A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this film focuses on a young woman's decisions concerning her upcoming wedding and sometimes strained relationship with her mother, a famous actress. It includes sexual references, a brief passionate encounter in a hallway, some language, repeated cheating by romantic partners (heterosexual and homosexual), and some verbal arguments. During a mugging that takes about 20 seconds, one character is stabbed in his side.
What's the story?
Adapted by Amy Fox from her one-act play, Chris Terrio's movie sets Isabel's (Elizabeth Banks) day at the center of five intersecting lives. Rushing from work (she's a wedding photographer) to a pre-wedding ceremony conference with the earnest childhood rabbi (George Segal) of fiancé, Jonathan (James Marsden, of X-Men), to a meeting with Times magazine editors who want her for exactly the sort of journalistic essay photography she wants to do, Isabel seems bound up in inevitable disappointment. She feels further pressured by her mother, renowned actress Diana Lee (Glenn Close).
Is it any good?
Urbane and on occasion banal, HEIGHTS reveals its origins as a stage play in its literary dialogue and tidy metaphors. Isabel takes lots of pictures of the Korean grocer across the street. While it's starting to bother Jonathan, she's still thinking about how she can get a "higher angle." Tomorrow, she asserts, "I'm going to the roof." She can't possibly know that going to the roof will reveal more than a different look at the grocer. The aggressive Diana and security-seeking Isabel appear very different, but they are also similar and eventually, visibly supportive of one another. Both use art as means to control their experiences -- Diana by acting, Isabel by framing what she sees in images (one mother she photographs on the subway resents out loud that she doesn't appear to have her "own f-ing life").
Limited by her desire for what she thinks is a "life," Isabel wants to believe Jonathan's assertion that they are "real people... having a very real wedding." But the film reveals early that he keeps a secret past from her -- that he posed for a famously gay photographer. It's no coincidence that the secret lurks in the form of photographs, or that Isabel resists seeing what's in front of her. While Diana finds both release and control in performance, Isabel seeks order in her photographs. Seeking the sort of life her mother hasn't had, Isabel finds other ways to deceive herself.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the relationship between Isabel and her mother Diana, as they discuss men, romance, cheating, and money. Families might also discuss the lack of communication between Isabel and her fiancé: how does the movie use their mutual deceits and silences as a way to critique contemporary, urban focus on careerism and self-interest?
- In theaters: June 17, 2005
- On DVD or streaming: November 1, 2005
- Cast: Elizabeth Banks, Glenn Close, James Marsden
- Director: Chris Terrio
- Studio: Sony Pictures Classics
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 96 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: language, brief sexuality and nudity
- Last updated: September 21, 2019
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