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"LIBERTY HEIGHTS"
(1999) (Adrien Brody, Ben Foster) (R)

Alcohol/
Drugs
Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Frightening/
Tense Scenes
Guns/
Weapons
Moderate Minor Heavy Mild Mild
Imitative
Behavior
Jump
Scenes
Music
(Scary/Tense)
Music
(Inappropriate)
Profanity
Mild None None None Heavy
Sex/
Nudity
Smoking Tense Family
Scenes
Topics To
Talk About
Violence
Heavy Moderate Mild Moderate Mild


QUICK TAKE:
Drama: Two Jewish brothers find their close-knit, partially isolated world expanding as they cross over previously insurmountable boundaries and taboos during the mid-1950s in Baltimore.
PLOT:
It's 1954 Baltimore and brothers Van (ADRIEN BRODY) and Ben Kurtzman (BEN FOSTER) have grown up near the predominantly Jewish neighbor of Liberty Heights. Just until recently, and thanks to their parents, Nate (JOE MANTEGNA) and Ada (BEBE NEUWIRTH) and grandmother Rose (FRANIA RUBINEK), they've thought that most everyone in the world was Jewish.

Yet this was a time of anti-Semitism, racism and distinct class differences, where attending a party in a Gentile neighborhood might mean ending up in a fight, or being attracted to a person of another race brings outrage from the involved parents.

That's exactly what happens with the Kurtzman brothers. The older one, Van, attends a Halloween party with his buddies Yussel (DAVID KRUMHOLTZ) and Alan (KEVIN SUSSMAN) where the former gets into just such a anti-Semitic fight while Van falls for Dubbie (CAROLYN MURPHY), a pretty but somewhat snobbish young woman. Of course he doesn't know that she's already seeing Trey (JUSTIN CHAMBERS), a dashing young man with a penchant for dangerous behavior including drinking and driving.

Meanwhile, Ben finds himself falling for Sylvia (REBEKAH JOHNSON), the first black student integrated into his school. While he anticipates the problems such a friendship and potential relationship can generate, especially with her father, he finds himself learning a thing or two about being black in the 1950s.

Meanwhile, the boys' dad, Nate, runs a burlesque business with his partners, Louie (CHARLEY SCALIES), Charlie (RICHARD KLINE) and Pete (VINCENT GUASTAFERRO), but they've discovered that they can make more money from their neighborhood numbers game.

Things go well until they add a bonus number and Little Melvin (ORLANDO JONES), a small-time, black drug dealer hits the numbers with a huge bet, thus winning a $100,000 payoff. Not having the money to pay him off, Nate and his partners try to figure out to solve their dilemma, and their solution eventually involves Ben and the rest of the family in ways they never expected.

WILL KIDS WANT TO SEE IT?
Unless they're fans of someone in the cast or of director Barry Levinson, it's not very likely.
WHY THE MPAA RATED IT: R
For crude language and sex-related material.
CAST AS ROLE MODELS:
  • ADRIEN BRODY plays the older of the Kurtzman brothers who spends much of the film trying to find and then impress a WASP, despite eventually knowing she has a boyfriend. He also drinks some.
  • BEN FOSTER plays his younger brother who tries to push the familial boundaries somewhat by occasionally acting up and secretly dating a black girl. Even so, he turns out to be an okay kid.
  • JOE MANTEGNA plays his father, a proud family man who runs a burlesque show as well as an illegal numbers racket that gets him and his family in trouble. He also uses profanity and smokes.
  • BEBE NEUWIRTH plays his wife who tries to keep the family together and the sons respectful and proud of their father.
  • DAVID KRUMHOLTZ plays one of Van's buddies who gets into a fight for being Jewish and later tries to "infiltrate" the Gentile world.
  • CAROLYN MURPHY plays the WASP who draws Van's attention. She drinks quite heavily and wants to have sex with Van (despite having a boyfriend).
  • JUSTIN CHAMBERS plays her boyfriend, a dashing young man with a penchant for dangerous behavior that includes drinking and driving.
  • REBEKAH JOHNSON plays the young black girl who secretly sees Ben and stands by him when he's in trouble.
  • ORLANDO JONES plays a small-time drug dealer who kidnaps Ben and others while trying to force a ransom payment from Nate. He also cusses.
  • CAST, CREW, & TECHNICAL INFO

    HOW OTHERS RATED THIS MOVIE


    Curious if this title is entertaining, any good, and/or has any artistic merit?
    Then read OUR TAKE of this film.


    (Note: The "Our Take" review of this title examines the film's artistic merits and does not take into account any of the possibly objectionable material listed below).


    OUR WORD TO PARENTS:
    Here's a quick look at the content found in this R-rated drama. Profanity is rated as heavy due to several uses of the "f" word, while other profanities and colorful phrases (some of them sexually related) are also uttered. A father and his partners run a burlesque show, resulting in our viewing of many scantily clad women dancing in front of men on stage, while his son has a brief and unexpected, but fully clothed sexual experience with a young girl. Other sexually related comments also occur.

    Bad attitudes abound in the form of racism, segregation, anti-Semitism, illegal behavior and a thug kidnaping some kids at gunpoint for ransom. Drinking and smoking are present (and involve teens), with one young man having a problem with drinking and driving and his girlfriend later vomits from drinking too much.

    Beyond all of that, the remaining categories have little or nothing in the way of major objectionable content. As always, however, should you still be concerned about the film's appropriateness for yourself or anyone else in your home, we suggest that you take a closer look at our more detailed content listings.


    ALCOHOL OR DRUG USE
  • Nate's family has wine with dinner.
  • Students drink beer at a party.
  • Drunk and driving, Trey crashes his car through a wall. He and another guy then drink liquor.
  • We hear that Little Melvin is a small-time drug dealer who sells "reefer."
  • Nate and Charlie have drinks.
  • Yussel, Van and others have beer at a party.
  • Dubbie drinks liquor straight from the bottle. Later, in a motel room, she drinks some more and then pours some into Van's mouth. We then hear her vomiting into a toilet from drinking too much.
  • BLOOD/GORE
  • Yussel has some bloody scrapes on his face after getting into a fight.
  • Trey has some bloody scrapes on his face after an accident.
  • We hear Dubbie vomiting into a toilet from drinking too much.
  • DISRESPECTFUL/BAD ATTITUDE
  • A beach club has a sign stating that they prohibit Jews, dogs and coloreds from entering.
  • Ben's mother is shocked and upset to hear that he thinks Sylvia (a black girl) is attractive. Later, Sylvia's father forbids her from seeing Ben ever again.
  • Nate and his buddies run a burlesque show as well as an illegal numbers racket.
  • Sheldon comments that "colored girls" are good at sex and that's a known fact. He then says that colored guys have "huge schlongs." He then goes on to say that while his privates were shriveled in a public shower, a black guy's privates hung half way down to his knee.
  • For Halloween, and considering that he's Jewish and it's been less than ten years since the end of WWII, Ben dresses up like Hitler.
  • A Gentile repeatedly asks Yussel if he's Jewish (in a derogatory way).
  • Ben thinks that just because Sylvia is black that she must live downtown (when in fact she lives in the suburbs). He also mentions that he's never listened to black radio, and only listens to "regular" radio. (She quickly calls him on both issues and he wasn't intentionally making such comments to be mean).
  • Although it appears that Trey is setting Van up for an embarrassing fall by helping him "find" Dubbie (Trey's girlfriend whom Van is smitten with) at a party, his intentions were really just to help him find another girl at the party.
  • Just for fun and to see what will happen, Van declines to "swear to tell the truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God" when called to the witness stand in court.
  • Louie calls Little Melvin a "spear chucking coon" after the drug dealer asks Nate and his partners, "Are you trying to Jew me?" Someone then uses the term "wop" and later "spade."
  • Little Melvin and his buddy -- small time drug dealers -- decide to kidnap Ben to force Nate to pay the balance of what he owes to the drug dealer.
  • Dubbie, despite being Trey's girlfriend, tells Van that they can stop at a motel. They do, but despite her requests, nothing ultimately happens between them.
  • FRIGHTENING SCENES
  • Scenes listed under "Violence" may be tense or unsettling to some viewers.
  • GUNS/WEAPONS
  • Handgun: Used by Little Melvin to kidnap Ben and his friends.
  • IMITATIVE BEHAVIOR
  • Phrases: "Sh*t house," "Who gives a sh*t," "Blowing," "Blue balls" "Put out," "Pop," "Plugging," and "Laid" (all sexual), "D*cking," "Piss," "Bastard," "Nuts" (crazy), "Balls" (testicles), "Screwed" (nonsexual), "Piece of crap," "Screw you" and "Screwed up."
  • Louie calls Little Melvin a "spear chucking coon" after the drug dealer asks Nate and his partners, "Are you trying to Jew me?" Someone then uses the term "wop" and later "spade."
  • Just for fun and to see what will happen, Van declines to "swear to tell the truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God" when called to the witness stand in court.
  • JUMP SCENES
  • None.
  • MUSIC (SCARY/TENSE)
  • None.
  • MUSIC (INAPPROPRIATE)
  • None.
  • PROFANITY
  • At least 3 "f" words, 22 "s" words, several slang terms for sex ("pop," "plugging," "laid," etc...), 4 slang terms for or using male genitals ("d*ck" and "schlong"), 7 slang terms for breasts (variations of "t*t"), 11 hells, 8 damns, 4 craps, 3 asses, 2 S.O.B.'s, and 9 uses of "Oh my God," 6 of "Jesus," 3 of "G-damn," 2 of "Swear to God," and 1 use each of "Jesus Christ," "Oh God," "Oh Jesus" and "For Christ's sakes" as exclamations.
  • SEX/NUDITY
  • A guy comments that since a young woman (who shows some cleavage in her bath suit) has some cigarettes tucked into the bottom of that bathing suit, then "she must be wild."
  • Some signs outside Nate's burlesque hall show women in skimpy outfits.
  • During a skit in a burlesque show, a comedian stars at a woman's cleavage (while mistakenly asking "Where are they from?" instead of "Where are you from?").
  • We briefly see a woman doing a striptease like number in the burlesque show, but we don't see any nudity.
  • Sheldon comments that "colored girls" are good at sex and that's a known fact. He then says that colored guys have "huge schlongs." He then goes on to say that while his privates were shriveled in a public shower, a black guy's privates hung half way down to his knee. Sheldon then points out a girl off in the distance and says that the black guy "could do her from here."
  • We see another burlesque performer in a skimpy, high-cut outfit. Later, another one wears a thong-like bottom, thus showing most of her bare butt.
  • Some guys in a diner talk about a girl "blowing" a horse.
  • Van mentions that he has "a bad case of blue balls."
  • While hiding in the floor of the car Sylvia's driving, Ben stares at her partially bare thighs.
  • Another burlesque performer shows quite a bit of thigh, as well as most of her bare butt, during her striptease act.
  • A guy mentions that girls were invented by God to please the "apparatus" (penis).
  • Nate commands that if a stripper shows her nipples or takes off her underwear that the spotlight operator is to kill the light on her. As she flashes most of her bare butt to the audience, they then kill the spotlight on her.
  • One of Ben's friends asks "Did you get laid?" about him being with Sylvia and asks "She blow you?" Ben says that none of that happened.
  • After Ben and Sylvia have been sitting close to each other in her bedroom and she touches him, we then see a wet mark on his pants (indicating that he had an orgasm). Sylvia then asks if "it" happens that easily and he replies "Not that I know of." A comment is then made that "it just goes off like that" and Ben then states that he had been "worked up" and it had "percolated" with nowhere else to go.
  • We see another stripper in a bikini-like outfit and other dancers show cleavage.
  • One of Ben's friends wonders if Sylvia's friend will "put out" for him on their double date. He then comments on giving the young women some "Spanish fly" and one then relates an urban myth about a young woman getting so wild from Spanish fly that she mounted the stick shift in a car.
  • At a party Yussel comments about a young woman, "I'd pop her."
  • Little Melvin asks Ben if he's "plugging" Sylvia. This question is asked again and Little Melvin then tells Ben to "touch her t*tty" but Ben refuses.
  • We see Yussel and some young woman passionately making out in a car.
  • Dubbie talks about her relationship with Trey to Van saying, "I love sex" but then adds that Trey thinks she gets out of control sometimes.
  • Dubbie, despite being Trey's girlfriend, tells Van that they can stop at a motel. We then see them in a motel room where she asks how much he wants her while licking his lips (while lying on top of him with both still clothed). Although she then has something of an emotional breakdown, she tells Van, "Make love to me" several times, but we don't see anything else happen.
  • We see more burlesque performers in skimpy outfits.
  • SMOKING
  • Nate and Trey smoke several times, while Ben, Little Melvin and several miscellaneous or background characters also smoke. In addition, a girl that Ben and his buddies admire has some cigarettes tucked into the bottom of her bathing suit.
  • TENSE FAMILY SCENES
  • Ben's behavior occasionally shocks his parents (being interested in a black girl, dressing like Hitler for Halloween, etc...) and some minor arguments ensue.
  • Ben and his family must deal with his father getting in trouble in relation to his numbers racket.
  • TOPICS TO TALK ABOUT
  • How things were different back in the 50s (integration, discrimination, etc...), such as the taboo of Ben (a white boy) seeing Sylvia (a black girl).
  • The numbers racket and burlesque business that Nate ran.
  • VIOLENCE
  • A guy and Yussel get into a fight at a party after the first guy makes a big deal about Yussel being Jewish (with many punches being thrown to the face and gut and the guy holding Yussel in a headlock and throwing him to the ground).
  • Drunk and driving, Trey crashes his car through a wall.
  • Little Melvin kidnaps Ben and his friends at gunpoint and slaps Ben's buddy on the back of the head. When Ben refuses to grope Sylvia at Little Melvin's command, the thug holds his gun on Ben again.



  • Reviewed November 15, 1999 / Posted December 10, 1999

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