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Liberty Heights (1999) 1999 R CC

(47) IMDb 7.1/10
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1950s Baltimore -- a period of great change with issues of race, religion and class distinction causing turmoil between two generations of a Jewish family.

Adrien Brody, Ben Foster
2 hours, 8 minutes

Available to watch on supported devices.

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Product Details

Genres Drama, Romance, Music
Director Barry Levinson
Starring Adrien Brody, Ben Foster
Supporting actors Orlando Jones, Bebe Neuwirth, Joe Mantegna, Rebekah Johnson, David Krumholtz, Richard Kline, Vincent Guastaferro, Justin Chambers, Carolyn Murphy, James Pickens Jr., Frania Rubinek, Anthony Anderson, Kiersten Warren, Evan Neumann, Kevin Sussman, Gerry Rosenthal, Charley Scalies, Shane West
Studio Warner Bros.
MPAA rating R (Restricted)
Captions and subtitles English Details
Purchase rights Stream instantly and download to 2 locations Details
Format Amazon Video (streaming online video and digital download)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By James Chong on July 6, 2000
Format: DVD
Writer/Director Barry Levinson was prompted to make Liberty Heights after he became infuriated over what he perceived to be an anti-Semitic comment made by Entertainment Weekly film critic Lisa Schwarzbaum in her review of Levinson's Sphere (he accuses her of unnecessarily emphasizing the Jewishness of Dustin Hoffman's character). All I can say after viewing this superb film is that I hope more film critics piss Mr. Levinson off, for his fourth foray into the Baltimore of his youth is richly nostalgic without being overly sentimental (which was Avalon's biggest flaw). The young cast, headed by newcomer Ben Foster and ex-The Thin Red Liner Adrien Brody, does a fine job of bringing to life Levinson's vivid characterizations of sensitive adolescents struggling to come to terms with the colliding social and ethnic spheres of America in the 1950's. Levinson does a commendable job of avoiding the stereotypes that plague many of the films about the youth of this era; for example, the young African American girl that Ben Kurtzman becomes attracted to (Sylvia, played by the beautiful and charming Rebekah Johnson) is not some uneducated inner-city slum girl, but rather the intelligent daughter of a respected and wealthy physician; also, the WASP trust-fund-baby princess that is the object of Van Kurtzman's lust (Dubbie, played very capably by model Carolyn Murphy) reveals herself to be tormented by familial troubles that push her to find relief in alcohol and promiscuity; and, most notably, Dubbie's WASP boyfriend Trey (Justin Chambers) avoids prejudicial bulliness and ends up befriending and looking out for Van rather than eschewing him for his Jewish background.Read more ›
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By David Thomson on December 23, 2000
Format: VHS Tape
"Liberty Heights" revolves around a Jewish middle class Baltimore family of the mid 1950's. The father (Joe Mantega) is a decent and honorable man who just happens to earn a living as a boss of an illegal gambling organization. He is not perceived as a criminal to his immediate community, but merely as a family bread winner doing the best he can. To hide his earnings from the IRS, the father also runs a unprofitable burlesque house. The acts are so tame by today's standards that they seem hysterically funny instead of lascivious. Many like myself born into a minority Catholic background will readily commiserate with the young son (Ben Foster) who is astonished to learn that few people in the world are Jewish. There is a warm and tender scene where the child unintentionally insults his gentile lady host for serving him white bread, luncheon meat, and milk. The boy is appalled by all the revolting "white stuff" on the table. The innocent child looks at the well meaning woman as some sort of weird human being. Later we observe him as a teenager tackling the mysteries of adolescent sexuality and interracial relations. He is forced to learn that racial prejudice is not limited to the outright cruel and uncivilized. The older brother (Adrien Brody) is already thrust into an adult world where being Jewish is an serious obstacle to full economic and social participation. His buddy even goes so far as to hide his Jewish heritage from a WASP female in order not to repel her. This incident is very uncomfortable to watch. The whole family undergoes a crisis when the father's betting operation has to make good on a bet that it doesn't have the money to cover. These characters are engaging and the audience cares about what happens to them.Read more ›
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 14, 2000
Format: VHS Tape
Barry Levinson writes and directs a story about growing up Jewish in Baltimore, MD in the 1950's, a topic he knows a lot about being a native of that city born in 1942. As a period piece, this is outstanding. As a comedy/drama, it has its moments but is too scattered to have much impact. The story follows the lives of Nate Kurtzman (Joe Mantegna), and his two sons, Van (Adrian Brody) and Ben (Ben Foster) over the period of one year. Nate's subplot shows his life as a small-time racketeer. Van develops a crush on a wealthy gentile girl at a party, and spends much of the film pining after her. When he finally gets to know her better he finds that she is much different than he had imagined. Ben develops a crush on a black girl in his class and embarks on a friendship with her that flies in the face of the taboos of the times.
The entire film revolved around a single theme, i.e. how hard it was to grow up Jewish in the 1950's. Much of the material was amusing, some disturbing and some charming, but Levinson was so intent on relieving (or reliving) his angst that he kept wandering from the main storylines. If he had focused more on the relationship between Ben and Sylvia (Rebekah Johnson), it would have been a much stronger film.
As a period piece on the `50's, this is outstanding. The costumes and props were perfect and the entire film had a genuine 50's feeling to it. Levinson captured not only the images, but also the attitudes.
The ensemble cast was very solid. Joe Montegna is always terrific, especially when he is playing a crook. He is extremely believable in those roles and though he has tried to break out of the type, he keeps coming back because he does it so well.
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