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Rental Unit: "Heights"

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Elizabeth Banks and James Marsden play Diana's 20-something daughter, Isabel, and her daughter's fiancé, Jonathan. When not fending off nymphs clinging to her director/husband, Diana is trying to establish a closer relationship with Isabel, who's also feeling distant from Jonathan, who's haunted by a past he hasn't shared with her. Most of the plain and banal melodrama faced by these characters is ironic in the shadow of their big, important lives. (Diana, for one, is seen rehearsing Lady Macbeth.) "Heights" seems interested in the little dramas going on in a really big, intense environment.

Yet even the most patient admirers of the low-key ensemble piece might push the snooze button if it were not for New York. The city dresses up any movie nicely, and first-time director Chris Terrio's script is helped immensely by the 24-hour buzz of its backdrop. Terrio and cinematographer Jim Denault use it as both a web connecting these city dwellers and as a conveyor whisking them around both horizontally and vertically. "Heights" moves, whether in a taxicab or an elevator, and when still, it breathes heavily in apprehension, squeezed in a tiny apartment or adrift in an airy loft. There's not a whole lot of story here, but this New York City is a palpable and unpredictable place. "Heights" is not a large film, but it stands tall in its willingness to be simple.— Wayne Melton

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